Book Review: Defending Jacob
Author: William Landay Published: 2012 Publisher: Delacorte Press Number of Pages: 421 My Rating: 4 Summary from GoodReads.com:
Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.
Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.
Award-winning author William Landay has written the consummate novel of an embattled family in crisis—a suspenseful, character-driven mystery that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control.
Never have I read a mystery/crime thriller that was more captivating and twisted than this one. The story begins and we are aware that the narrator, Andy Barber, is in some sort of trial testimony, for what, we don’t know. He is being questioned by a former colleague and protege who is seemingly at the end of his rope about the case. The content of the trial continues to pop in and out of the story as the narrator begins explaining things to us, the reader, about how everything got turned upside down in his quiet town. Set in a suburb in Massachusetts, Andy has been the Assistant District Attorney for most of his career. He is very respected in this small community that is highly rich and educated where all of the kids go on to Ivy League Colleges after having an idyllic childhood with their perfect families. Violence and crime are basically a nonissue, until, a fourteen-year-old boy is murdered in a nearby park. Andy instantly requests the case as he has been a rock in the town for years as well as the fact that he himself has a fourteen-year-old boy that he wants to protect. Andy starts about the case as he normally would, trying to hear what happened and getting as much evidence as he can. While he is trying to find suspects and talk with students at the school, he is also trying to support his wife and her friends who are terrified about the fact that a murderer is on the loose. Next thing Andy knows, the police are at his door and his own son, Jacob, is being accused of the murder. Andy’s peaceful world is gone as he knows it and he dedicates his life, or what is left of it, to defending his son and sticking up for him, while at the same time trying to convince his former colleagues that he was innocent of tampering with the evidence. He continues to show his unconditional love for Jacob, whether he is guilty or innocent.
William Landay does an excellent job of examining guilt, innocence, betrayal, and capability. This book is a murder mystery at its heart but it also addresses so many issues that families experience when they deal with violence and traumatic situations. He goes through the book and seamlessly portrays the changes the family goes through as the trial progresses and really shows how things alter both at home as well as in the community, regardless of whether Jacob actually committed the murder or not. The hardest part about reading Defending Jacob is the fact that Landay does such a great job giving us small clues and just enough foreshadowing to make us think we have it figured out, but yet at the same time changes things so much that we are constantly left guessing. There is a lot of evidence that points to Jacob’s innocence, but then other things pop up that suggest he did it. You truly have no idea what way things are going to go until you get to the very end. Be prepared for some MAJOR plot twists that will make your jaw drop open and will shock you. So much happened in this book that I didn’t see coming, and I feel like that’s a hard thing to do. Overall, Defending Jacob is a shocking crime thriller that will leave you guessing until the very end. You will be blown away by the twists in this one, and will have a book hangover for days. If you are looking for a good mystery that has realistic elements of family, emotions, and crime, you will want to check this one out. William Landay wrote a gripping thriller that has left me thinking about it for days, and I don’t think I’ll be letting go of this one any time soon. -Busy Brunette