Review

Missing Witness

by Gordon Campbell

MISSING WITNESS by Gordon Campbell (a trial attorney in Salt
Lake City, Utah) takes place in Phoenix, Arizona in 1973 and is
told through the voice of Doug McKenzie, a newly-minted attorney
who has turned down an offer to practice with a prestigious San
Francisco firm for the chance to litigate in his hometown of
Phoenix as an associate in a smaller, less lustrous partnership.
The reason is that McKenzie wishes to work with his role model, a
criminal attorney named Dan Morgan. He gets his chance when Rita
Eddington, accompanied by her 12-year-old daughter Miranda,
pays a visit to Travis, her estranged husband. Travis is shot to
death, with mother and daughter being the only eyewitnesses. When
Rita is charged with murder, Travis’s father, a local
landowner of great wealth, retains Morgan to defend his
daughter-in-law.

 

The incident has left Miranda in a catatonic state, so that she is
unable to testify as to what happened between her father and
mother. Yet Morgan, an eccentric, hard-drinking litigator who is
able to think outside the box, believes he can successfully defend
his client with a daring strategy. McKenzie quickly learns,
however, that life in a law firm is not at all what he imagined it
would be, even as he slowly becomes aware that his hometown, which
he thought he knew so well, hides secrets at every turn, one of
which comes back to haunt both Morgan and McKenzie when they least
suspect it.

Campbell is a masterful and spellbinding wordsmith whose ability
does not begin and end at creating and telling a superb story. One
example: a brief but important vignette in the book takes place in
Henry Africa’s, a San Francisco fern bar that reached the
height of its popularity in the early 1970s. I spent a great deal
of time in that establishment, and Campbell’s description of
it, from décor to ambience, is so spot-on that while reading
the passages concerning it, I could once again taste the Irish
coffee that I drank on an almost daily basis there. Those familiar
with 1973 Phoenix undoubtedly will feel the same way.

 

On top of everything, the author leaves his readers with an ending
that is incredibly uplifting, unbelievable in some ways yet
ultimately entirely credible. The last three paragraphs are worth
the price of the book alone (don’t peek ahead, for if you do,
the ending will mean nothing to you) yet encapsulate the one word
that is the motivator behind the main story: hope.

MISSING WITNESS seems to have been published with little fanfare,
yet this is the type of novel that will be recommended, passed
around, talked about and read multiple times.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 7, 2011

Missing Witness
by Gordon Campbell

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 006133751X
  • ISBN-13: 9780061337512