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Defending Jacob: A Novel Paperback – September 3, 2013
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2012: A fast, compelling, and compulsively readable courtroom drama, Defending Jacob tells the story of a district attorney’s son who is accused of killing a classmate. As the father attempts to prove his son’s innocence, Landay explores uncomfortable territory: can a tendency toward violence be inherited? Is the capacity for murder a genetic disposition? The author, a former district attorney, gets the taut nuances just right, capturing the subtleties of a trial in a packed courtroom, where a small rustle or murmur can signify a lot. In the end Landay pulls off a clever plot device that doesn’t reveal itself until the final pages. --Neal Thompson
Featured Guest Review: Chevy Stevens on Defending Jacob
From the first few pages of Defending Jacob, I knew this book was special. More than an exciting courtroom drama that combines the best elements of a legal and psychological thriller, it also delves into the heart of a family, and will rip yours out in the process.
When a young boy is found brutally murdered in the woods in a peaceful New England town, his body hastily covered with leaves, the community is shaken to its core. No one more so than Andy Barber, a well-respected assistant district attorney whose fourteen-year-old son, Jacob, went to school with the boy. Sure, Jacob is a typical moody teenager, hiding in his room all day with his headphones and lap top, but Andy loves him more than anything in this world--and would do anything to protect him.
While Andy's wife, Laurie, struggles with the possibility that there's a killer on the loose and their own son could be next, Andy's determined to find the culprit and bring him to justice. He immerses himself in a maelstrom of angry parents demanding answers, police hell-bent on making an arrest, and the complicated lives of teenagers, with their own secrets, and reasons for keeping them.
When, in a stunning turn of events, Jacob is arrested for the crime, both Andy and Laurie are stalwart in their defense of their son: there's no way their child could've committed this terrible act. As more shocking facts are revealed and lies uncovered, Andy is pushed to the edge and his twenty-year marriage tested. Beautiful Laura, his college sweetheart and love of his life, begins to fade in front of his eyes, crumbling under the pressure of the trial, the public accusations, and the weight of her own doubts--in her son and her husband. When truths about Andy's past comes to surface, he must chose between the life he thought he'd left behind, and the father he wants to be.
Defending Jacob raises the question: how far would you go to protect your family? But it also leaves you wondering if anyone could answer that question, and whether we really know what we're capable of when push comes to shove.Let's pray we never have to find out.
Featured Guest Review: Phillip Margolin on Defending Jacob
Phillip Margolin has been a Peace Corps Volunteer, a school teacher, and is the author of 15 New York Times bestsellers. He spent a quarter century as a criminal defense attorney during which he handled thirty homicide cases, including twelve death penalty cases, and argued at the United States Supreme Court. He is a co-founder of Chess for Success, a non-profit that uses chess to teach elementary school children study skills. His latest novel, Capitol Murder will be released in April, 2012.
One perk of being a bestselling author is that you are sent advance reading copies (ARCs) of books by first time authors, or published authors whose editors believe have written a breakout novel. The ARC is sent by the writer's editor in hopes that you will write a "blurb," which is a sentence or two praising the book that can be used in advertisements. The books I blurb range from fun reads to very good reads. Then there is the rare book that knocks my socks off. William Landay's Defending Jacob is one of these gems. It is a legal thriller, but so are To Kill a Mocking Bird, Snow Falling on Cedars and Anatomy of a Murder. Defending Jacob, like these classics, separates itself from the pack because it is also a searing work of literary fiction.
At the heart of Landay's exceptional novel is a parent's worst nightmare. Assistant district attorney Andy Barber, his wife, Laurie, and their teenage son, Jacob, are living an idyllic existence in a middle class Massachusetts suburb until one of Jacob's classmates is stabbed to death in the picturesque park where the locals jog, walk their dogs and picnic. It soon becomes clear that Jacob is the prime suspect and the Barbers have to confront the possibility that the child they have doted from birth may be a sociopathic killer.
Andy takes a forced leave of absence from his job and helps defend the son he loves from a charge he cannot believe is true. Is he engaging in self-deception? How far will he go to protect his family? Laurie wonders if something she did as a parent has created a monster and her guilt destroys her. And then there is Jacob. Is he a typical angst filled teenager or a psychopathic monster? Landay skillfully keeps the reader guessing about Jacob's culpability and true nature up to the shocking final chapters.
What makes Defending Jacob special is the way Landay gives the reader the twists, turns and surprises found in the best legal thrillers while making its centerpiece the tragedy faced by a normal family who are thrust into a nightmare.
*Starred Review* A 14-year-old boy is stabbed to death in the park near his middle school in an upper-class Boston suburb, and Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber takes the case, despite the fact that his son, Jacob, was a classmate of the victim. But when the bloody fingerprint on the victim’s clothes turns out to be Jacob’s, Barber is off the case and out of his office, devoting himself solely to defending his son. Even Barber’s never-before-disclosed heritage as the son and grandson of violent men who killed becomes potential courtroom fodder, raising the question of a “murder gene.” Within the structure of a grand jury hearing a year after the murder, Landay gradually increases apprehension. As if peeling the layers of an onion, he raises personal and painful ethical issues pertaining to a parent’s responsibilities to a child, to a family, and to society at large. Landay’s two previous novels (Mission Flats, 2003; The Strangler, 2007) were award winners, but he reaches a new level of excellence in this riveting, knock-your-socks-off legal thriller. With its masterfully crafted characterizations and dialogue, emotional depth, and frightening implications, the novel rivals the best of Scott Turow and John Grisham. Don’t miss it. --Michele Leber --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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"Defending Jacob" reminded me a bit of Jodi Piccoult's "Plain Truth" in its exciting courtroom drama depiction. I would say better than Turow's "Presumed Innocent" in its deliberateness. The subject is a delicate one...a son, Jacob, 15, is accused of killing a fellow student in cold blood. His parent's, pillars of the community, are traumatized, shocked, sick - you can actually feel their pain though Landay's words. They marvel and wonder, as any parent would - Could our son have done this? That fact that Jacob's Dad is the cop assigned to the case gives the reader a unique perspective. The havoc wreaked on the marriage and all the secrets spouse chose not to share is fascinating. Do not miss this one!
I have to say that I had a hard time getting into this one at first, but I pushed forward and I can say that I definitely wanted to know more as I kept going. Something that I do, when I'm using my Kindle (Fire) is to read at least 20% at a time when I'm struggling with a book. If I can't get to 40%, well it might be time to table it ... Also, my best friend and a member of the book club said that the ending was totally worth it and not to skim - pay attention. Great advice.
I'm a fan of crime novels, particularly in the summer - it just seems like the right time to get a little John Grisham (early, John Grisham). With school recently ending for me (I'm a teacher), this might explain why I couldn't get into the book for a bit ..
We are introduced to immediately to the murder and quite possibly, maybe the murderer. I liked the author's approach to telling this story ... providing a little bit at a time, feeding the reader just enough to keep them going. The author gives the reader just enough to help them form their opinions, their doubts, their own verdict. I didn't struggle with who I believe the murderer was, but I struggled with the overarching theme: the faith of a parent. The faith a parent needs to struggle through those first months, years with their children and through the heart break of the rest of their lives. Jacob's father couldn't let him go, felt like he could not let his vision or his understanding of who his son was, despite all of the evidence, despite his wife's slow deterioration.
Please read, make your own conclusions. It is a haunting story with working your way through until close to the end, that's when it will punch you in the gut. And it's totally worth being punched in the gut. I don't think I would normally say that, but I'm saying it now.
Most recent customer reviews
This was an interesting book. I actually liked it a lot more than I thought I would.Read more