BRIGHAM’S DAY by John Gates


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Atmospheric legal procedural that peers into the uninviting shadows cast by the Church of the Latter-day Saints on contemporary and historical Utah.

After defense lawyer Brigham Bybee failed to win a high-profile lawsuit brought by a teenaged rape victim against a powerful Mormon church elder, he started to hit the bottle, his wife divorced him, and he was almost disbarred. Now, after a year of sobriety, Bybee, who was raised by Mormon parents but has never numbered himself among the Saints, is tapped by aging circuit judge Reed Macklesprang to be second banana on the legal team defending Owen Parks, an illiterate drifter accused of murdering Mormon Doug Farnsworth. Though the evidence against Parks is slight, Bybee senses that Macklesprang hopes Bybee’s history of ineptitude, and the obnoxious shenanigans of lead defense lawyer Ronnie Watters, will lead to a quick conviction. Against his better judgment, Bybee becomes friendly with Farnsworth's beautiful, crippled granddaughter, Zolene Swapp (the characters' odd Mormon names are a running joke). Of course, Zolene knows more about her grandfather's dealings with the church hierarchy than she's willing to admit. Could this be the reason that she vomits after having torrid sex with Bybee in a muddy mountain lake? When Watters is found dead in the same lake, Bybee learns of a letter that has been passed down through the family from one of the original participants in the 1857 slaughter of more than a hundred innocent men, women and children at Mountain Meadows. Can he use the letter, and the conscience of the enormously fat Sheriff LaGrand Little, to save his client, avenge Farnsworth’s death, and vanquish an old enemy?

Newcomer Gates, a Utah native practicing law in Texas, turns a wonderfully jaundiced eye on the beauty and grotesqueries of his home state, and on the disquieting Mormon fringe culture that seems to hold it in an iron grip.

Pub Date: July 7th, 2000
ISBN: 0-8027-3344-1
Page count: 204pp
Publisher: Walker
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2000