Missing Witness

Missing Witness

4.6 9
by Gordon Campbell

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1973, Phoenix, Arizona. A beautiful woman with a gun enters a house with her twelve-year-old daughter. When they leave, the man inside is dead.

Though the only witness to the fatal shooting is in a catatonic state and unable to testify, the police, the attorney general's office, and the media have already declared the woman guilty.

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1973, Phoenix, Arizona. A beautiful woman with a gun enters a house with her twelve-year-old daughter. When they leave, the man inside is dead.

Though the only witness to the fatal shooting is in a catatonic state and unable to testify, the police, the attorney general's office, and the media have already declared the woman guilty. But the best trial lawyer in Phoenix, Dan Morgan, has been hired to prove her innocent.

For Morgan and his idealistic young protégé, Doug McKenzie, the goal is to win at any cost. But there are no easy answers, only shocks and mysteries, as the question of guilt versus innocence takes on a profound and disturbing new meaning.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In his promising debut, trial lawyer Campbell delivers an intriguing, if often overly technical, story of long-buried family secrets and the blurred line between lies and the truth. In 1973, Doug McKenzie, a new associate at a prestigious Phoenix firm, is thrilled to work with famed trial lawyer Daniel Morgan. When the son of a wealthy rancher is shot dead in his home, Morgan and McKenzie are hired by the victim's father, Ferris Eddington, to defend his daughter-in-law, the beautiful Rita Eddington. McKenzie has known the Eddingtons since childhood and can't believe Rita killed her husband. But when the only other suspect is Rita's mentally disturbed 12-year-old daughter, Miranda, McKenzie knows it will be the trial of his life. While Campbell certainly knows the ins and outs of the legal system, the plot meanders in the middle, becoming too bogged down with procedural particulars to sustain the reader's interest. Despite an outcome that's not as surprising as it should be, legal suspense fans will be well rewarded. Author tour. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

In Campbell's debut legal thriller, Dan Morgan is a Phoenix-based Perry Mason-like defense attorney trying to uncover the true culprit behind a murder. A woman and her daughter enter a home, gunshots are fired, and the woman's husband is killed; the outcome seems obvious. But, surprisingly, the father of the deceased asks Morgan to defend his daughter-in-law, and Morgan realizes that everything is not clear-cut after all. Morgan's assistant narrates, giving the story an odd hero-worship perspective. The main plot moves sluggishly toward its predetermined conclusion, and the lack of decent twists will bore fans of courtroom thrillers. Cut out all the scenes of the characters eating and drinking, and the text would be about 300 pages shorter. Campbell clearly writes what he knows-he practices law in Salt Lake City-but he tries too hard to create a literary work as opposed to just a fun and interesting read. The characterizations are also all over the place. Purchase with caution. [See Prepub Alert, LJ6/15/07.]
—Jeff Ayers

Kirkus Reviews
An engaging courtroom drama along the Turow/Grisham line-the author's debut. A woman and her 12-year-old daughter enter a house; a witness outside hears six shots fired. Inside, the woman's husband lies dead. The problem, of course, is an old one: How can it be proved which person committed the murder? The wrinkle in Campbell's novel is that almost immediately after the murder the daughter lies in a catatonic state, the result of either having committed a violent act or having seen a violent act committed. The defense lawyers rush to trial, in part so that the killing can be pinned on the unresponsive daughter, now confined in a psychiatric hospital. The defense is successful, but immediately after the verdict the daughter wakes up from her catatonia and matter-of-factly claims that her mother was the killer. The ultimate twist of Campbell's novel is that the same lawyers are now hired to defend the daughter, but they have just "proved" her guilt and now must argue the other side, blaming the mother for the murder. The novel's premier character is Dan Morgan-former Marine, devotee of cigarettes, Coors beer and a brilliant defense lawyer. (It's a little hard to credit that the "best legal mind in America" is partner in a law firm in Phoenix and keeps his cigarette pack rolled up in his socks.) The narrator is Doug McKenzie, a newly minted lawyer who is Morgan's naive associate on the case and who is not, he admits, "a threat for Boy Orator of Arizona." While McKenzie feels Morgan's charismatic pull, he is also aware that Morgan might be manipulating him in order to clear his clients. Morgan's penchant for benders eventually leads to the necessity of McKenzie making the closing argument inthe daughter's trial. Ingenious plot, serviceable prose. But as in the best examples of this genre, Campbell keeps the pages turning. Agent: Richard Pine/InkWell Management

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Meet the Author

Gordon Campbell lives with his wife, United States District Judge Tena Campbell, in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he practices law with the firm of Parsons Behle & Latimer. He is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates and a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

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Missing Witness

Chapter One

The president of the Arizona Golf Association carrieda battery-powered megaphone. He didn't need it. At the hourwe were starting, there were only a handful of people around the tee. Still, he raised it to his mouth, and his voice carried all the way across the San Marcos Country Club.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the final match of the 1973 Arizona Golf Association Men's Amateur Championship. On the tee the defending champion, Dr. Winthrop North."

Winthrop North stood confidently beside his caddie and his huge, hand-tooled golf bag. Harvard educated and, at least by any Arizona standard, patrician, he seemed almost to pose in his madras pants and wing-tipped golf shoes. He wore a white shirt with a crocodile on it and over that a white cashmere cardigan. It all could have been a scene from the cover of Golf Digest, save for the old flat course whose Bermuda fairways were beginning to turn yellow with the coming of winter. After announcing his name, the president rapidly cataloged the doctor's biggest golf accomplishments: the United States Amateur, the British Amateur; his years on the Walker Cup team, multiple state championships. I fiddled with my head cover and wondered how on earth he'd managed all that while conducting a medical practice.

"Dr. North."

The president lowered his megaphone, and my opponent took two precise steps to where he had already teed his ball. He hit a driver, a low, controlled fade to the right side of the fairway. He couldn't have walked out and placed it any better.

Could I beat him? Sure I could. I had as many clubs in my bag as he had in his. Weplayed the same course under the same conditions and the same rules. Besides, when you've joined a law firm to work for one partner and that partner hasn't shown up for work in the two months you've been there, and you've spent almost every afternoon with another partner entertaining insurance adjusters at various country clubs around the valley, your golf game tends to sharpen dramatically. Why shouldn't I beat him? I commend those sorts of thoughts to anyone who might find himself in the situation I was in that morning. A more realistic question dominated my consciousness, however: It was to be a thirty-six-hole match; could I take him to twenty-seven?

"On the tee. Mr. Douglas McKenzie. Phoenix City Junior Champion, 1959."

I hooked it. I did all the things they tell you to do to get rid of the butterflies. An extra practice swing, an extra deep breath, a long and focused look at my target. Then I swung, and I watched the ball go left and held my breath as it rolled close by a small barrel cactus that used to be on the left side of the first fairway at San Marcos. Winthrop North and his caddie and his enormous golf bag started quickly up the fairway. Berating myself at not having shelled out for a caddie, I turned and picked up my little bag that had Ben Hogan printed on the side.

"That'll play!" I swung around just in time to see a golf cart careen off the path in front of the pro shop and plow through a bed of flowers. I saw beer splash out of a can and all over the passenger, and I heard the passenger yell, "Jesus H. Christ, Tom!" The cart took a dive through a sprinkler, and as it emerged, I could make out the two occupants. Uncombed and grizzled, they both wore suit pants and white dress shirts that looked like they'd been slept in. A big swing to the right, and the cart skidded sideways to a stop directly in front of me. I looked down into the bulging eyes and the unshaven face of Tom Gallagher, the man for whom I'd been working, the one with whom I'd been entertaining insurance adjusters. I knew instantly that he was more than just a little drunk. "That'll play," he said for a second time. "You didn't hit it very well, but you've got a shot at the pin."

"I hope I do," I said with my mouth hanging open.

"Doug McKenzie," Gallagher announced, "Dan Morgan." My gaze jumped to the other side of the cart. He looked worse than Gallagher. He hadn't shaved for days. His eyes were veined with red. His shirt was splashed with beer. "You say you want to work for him, Douglas. Well, here he is. Back from two months in the country."

Dan Morgan put the cigarette he was holding in his hand into his mouth and squinted from the smoke. He shifted a can of beer to the left and put out his right hand. He nodded one time, not saying a word. I managed to get my golf bag around on my shoulder so I could shake his hand. And there it was, on the third Sunday in October, on the first tee at the San Marcos Country Club, that I finally met him.

"Throw your clubs on here," Gallagher ordered. "We'll caddie for you." I strapped my bag onto the back of the cart, and as I did, I saw a tub full of ice and beer. Then they were gone, bouncing up the fairway with their beer and my clubs, and I was walking far behind them shaking my head in disbelief.

That may have been the first time I met Dan Morgan, but it wasn't the first time I'd seen him. I had indeed been forewarned, back on a day in August when I sat, for the first time, in the lobby of the offices of Butler and Menendez. Paul Butler had insisted that I let the firm fly me down to Phoenix so he could propose a substantially larger salary than I'd been offered in San Francisco. I sat there that August morning, waiting for Butler, sensing the onslaught of . . .

Missing Witness. Copyright © by Gordon Campbell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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