Defending Jacob: A Novel

Defending Jacob: A Novel

by William Landay (2011)


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.

Good Reading Review

As can be expected from the description – not to mention the cover – this is a disturbing story that may appeal to murder mystery fans. However, other than being a reasonably well-written page-turner with a heart-stopping twist, it is difficult to find more to recommend about it.

There is significant ethical confusion demonstrated by most of the main characters. The parents face a serious moral dilemma, but wish to protect their son by never doubting his innocence, which possibly leaves them living in denial. The lawyers are only out to win the case. No character offers the alternative to this view by trying to seek the truth. The one character that showed the possibility of doing so makes a choice which destroys their moral credibility.

The characters come across as cold and distant as the dreadful events they experience. There is no redemption for anyone; this could well be the purpose of the book.

The frequent coarse language and sexual references often feel unnecessary, as though the story insists on the same point for too long, even for adult readers. Most references are not graphically explicit and focus on the behaviour of adults, though there is still a significant number that refer uncritically to the behaviour of teenagers, including the frequenting of pornographic websites.

The violence, however, does become graphic, and being centred on a suspected child-to-child killing, is even more disturbing.

Perhaps it could offer adult readers a chilling insight into how oblivious parents may be about the lives of their children, as well as the importance of monitoring their use of online social networks.

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