Monday, September 02, 2013

Fiction Review: Defending Jacob

My Big Book Summer Challenge gave me the push I needed to finally read Defending Jacob by William Landay. I’d heard all the rave reviews and bought it for my husband for his birthday last fall. I’m glad I made the time to read this riveting and disturbing legal thriller.

As the novel opens, Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber is assigned to investigate a shocking crime in the wealthy Boston suburb where he and his family live. A fourteen-year old boy has been brutally murdered, and the community wants the horrifying case solved quickly. The boy was a classmate of Andy’s son, Jacob, but they weren’t close, so Andy sees no conflict of interest in his role…until his own son is accused of the murder, and Andy is taken off the case.

It all seems surreal to Andy, as he suddenly finds himself in the role of helpless parent instead of powerful prosecutor. He and his wife believe in their son’s innocence, and Andy does all he can to help in his defense. From there, the novel follows the boy’s case and is in turns a courtroom thriller, murder mystery, and every parent’s worst nightmare.

The reader goes on a rollercoaster ride with Andy and his wife. New evidence comes to light, and you wonder whether Jacob might actually be the killer. Then, in another scene, you see him as a scared little boy and think it must be a set-up. Landay takes you back and forth again and again, as the story continues, until you don’t know what to think. The courtroom verdict is not the ending; Andy is brought up on charges of obstruction of justice (this is actually how the book opens), as the family’s saga continues. The final ending is a shock that I never saw coming.

Besides being a compelling and fast-paced suspense novel, Defending Jacob is also a thought-provoking book. As a parent, it is impossible to read this story and not think, “What would I do?” It’s an unthinkable situation for any parent, and Andy and his wife each react differently. All in all, it’s a very disturbing, thoughtful novel that kept me reading long past bedtime.

421 pages, Delacorte Press 


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