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13 / 30 books. 43% done!

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Monday, October 08, 2012

Gripping Legal Thriller More Than Just a Murder Mystery. Much More.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Prosecuting criminals is all in a day's work for Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber.  It's what the 51-year-old does.  It's been his job for the last 20 years.  And he's good at it.

Violent crime isn't usually on the menu in Newton—a quiet suburb of Boston—so when a teenage boy is murdered in the park, Andy is as shocked as the rest of the community.  Shock turns to anger when his own son, 14-year-old Jacob, becomes a prime suspect in the case.  Andy refuses to believe his child is capable of committing such a heinous act and vows to defend Jacob with all he's got, for as long as it takes.

As the police investigate the murder and Jacob's lawyer questions his family and friends, Andy does his own digging.  What he turns up shocks him, proving how little he actually knows his unassuming son.  Still, how much of Jacob's disturbing secret life is just normal angsty teenage stuff and how much is indicative of a very troubled kid?  While everyone else seems ready to convict Jacob, Andy stands by him.  Even as the town turns against the Barber Family, even as his marriage crumbles, even as the evidence stacks up against his son—even then, Andy refuses to give up on Jacob.  Yet, he can't help asking:  Is his boy innocent or guilty?  Does it even matter when it's your own child?

Although the plot of Defending Jacob by William Landay sounds simple, it's not.  In fact, the story grows more complex by the page.  Rich in both character and plot, the book is a compelling blend of murder mystery, family saga and legal thriller.  I love this blurb from crime writer Stephen White:  "More than a terrific legal thrill ride, Defending Jacob is an unflinching appraisal of the darkest, most poignant consequences of the love that binds, and blinds, families.  It's one of those rare books that call for contemplation and insight along with every breathtaking surprise."  I couldn't have said it better myself.  While I didn't absolutely love this one, it definitely kept my attention with sympathetic characters, tight plotting and plenty of food for thought (It's been over a week and I'm still trying to digest the surprise ending).  If you love meaty legal thrillers, you won't want to miss Defending Jacob.

(Readalikes:  I've seen it compared to Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow; also reminded me of books by John Grisham and Jodi Picoult)

Grade:  B

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for language, violence and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Defending Jacob at Changing Hands Bookstore with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.      


  1. My husband and I both thought this was a great book. I agree with your comparison to Jodi Picoult books. Here is a link to our review if interested:

    I liked it so much that I started "Presumed Innocent" but couldn't get into that one.

    1. That's funny that you grabbed PRESUMED INNOCENT after this one. I did, too! Unfortunately, though, I didn't get a chance to read it before it was due back at the library. I'm still planning to try it, just to see what I think ...

  2. I have this book sitting in my waist-high stack of books to read. Looking forward to it making to the top of the pile!


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