Saturday, May 26, 2012

Review: Defending Jacob by William Landay

Defending Jacob
Author: William Landay
Published: January 31, 2012
Genre: legal thriller
Hardcover: 421 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): 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.

My Thoughts: I tend to stay away from legal thrillers, but after hearing so much buzz about this book, I decided to give William Landay a shot. Taking you into the murder trial of a 14 year old boy, where the defendant is another 14 year old boy, you figure it's already going to be a pretty good story. But with Andy Barber, assistant DA and father of the defendant, narrating the story, Landay weaves a story of parental love, devotion, mystery, and legal thrills all into one story. There were so many twists and turns throughout this story that it constantly kept my attention. I loved that Landay kept the story realistic but added in those twists to continually grab the reader and make them want to keep on reading.

The characters in this book are complex and will definitely force you to think about how much a parent should love their child. Laurie, Andy's wife, is grappling that her only child maybe a murderer and she doesn't know how to handle these thoughts (but honestly, what person could?) Then there are the Barber's friends, who have known them for years, yet now that their son is accused of murder, they mysteriously drop out of the picture. You have Jacob, who you are never quite sure if he is guilty or not (I loved how Landay did this! He really does give you all of the evidence, and leaves it up to you to form your own conclusion). Then there is Andy, who will fight for his son's innocence, no matter what the cost. I loved the complexity of emotions that each character deals with, and with Andy telling the story as if looking back in time, you are subjec to the true feelings of each character.

If I have one complaint about this book, it's that it wasn't always as gripping as I would have liked it to be. There were certain points where the novel just seemed to be bobbing along and the reader is left waiting for something to happen. I did feel like Landay made up for it with his ending (probably one of the best conclusions I have ever read), so I will definitely be looking for more of his work in the future. If you aren't into legal thrillers, I would try this one out. There is enough family drama going on to make you forget at times that this is centered around a trial.


  1. Thanks for the review--I've been noticing that this book has been selling off the shelf at my bookstore in the last few months but I never really checked to see what it was all about. It sounds good.

  2. ThIs sounds like an incredibly interesting read. I've had it sitting on my shelf for awhile and wondered if it was any good or not. Thanks for the review!

  3. Wow, your review makes me want to read this now!! I just posted on Anita's blog the other day that the one thing that terrifies me the most about the possibility of having kids is having teenagers in the future, LOL!! That's so true about the online personalities thing... I'm glad that wasn't around when I was a teen.

    Marlene Detierro (Tony Lama Boot)