Some people just aren’t cut out for retirement. Take Beverley McLachlin, the former, and longest-serving, Chief Justice of Canada, who retired from the bench last December. In the few months since then, she’s joined Hong Kong’s Final Court of Appeal and, perhaps even more impressively, released her first novel—Full Disclosure.
McLachlin, like a lot of first-time authors, sticks with what she knows—lawyers and the law—in her first foray into fiction. But those hoping for a look into the inner workings of the Supreme Court of Canada will be disappointed. Full Disclosure is a straight-ahead murder mystery/legal thriller. It’s got it all—an engaging protagonist, a tightly constructed plot, multiple subplots (including a romantic one, of course) and more than a couple of Big Secrets revealed at the end. I read it in the course of one Sunday and, though I’m not a regular reader of either mysteries or thrillers, it kept me in its thrall enough that I skipped making dinner to see how McLachlin tied up all the loose ends.
McLachlin was born and raised in Pincher Creek and got her LL.B. from the University of Alberta. Full Disclosure, however, unfolds on her old turf in Vancouver, where, after leaving her native Alberta, she spent most of the 1970s and 1980s. Much of the book’s charm is in getting to know the coastal city, or know it better, through the eyes of Jilly Truitt. Jilly, a criminal defence lawyer with a sad back story, a good heart and more than a touch of cynicism, is our guide in a first-person narrative that takes the reader from the welfare hotels of the Downtown Eastside to the mansions of Shaughnessy. She’s the perfect legal protagonist—smart, suspicious and driven. And she’s surrounded by perfect foils. McLachlin has a real talent for quick but convincing characterization, which serves her and her readers well. Jilly’s Crown prosecutor frenemy Cy Kenge, her firm’s quick-witted associates and staff, and the various suspects of the murder that her client—the wealthy, charming Vincent Trussardi—has been charged with, all come alive on the page as living, feeling people instead of just plot devices.
It would be unfair to potential readers to reveal much of Full Disclosure’s plot. Suffice it to say that McLachlin has the sure hand of a much more experienced author. You may guess at some of the book’s surprises, but you’ll be pleasurably hanging in suspense for most of them. Along the way, you’ll learn about Haida art, criminal defence procedure, the social topography of Vancouver and even a little about the author. If McLachlin can find the time to write it, I’d be more than happy to spend a future weekend reading the second Jilly Truitt book.
—Alex Rettie is a writer and editor in Calgary.