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Defending Jacob: A Novel by William Landay
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Defending Jacob: A Novel (original 2012; edition 2013)

by William Landay

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1,9662203,456 (3.91)148
Member:lmckamy
Title:Defending Jacob: A Novel
Authors:William Landay
Info:Dell (2013), Mass Market Paperback, 496 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:None

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Defending Jacob by William Landay (2012)

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Showing 1-5 of 225 (next | show all)
Flat out this is one of the best courtroom dramas I ever expect to read. One reason for this praise is that the book also minutely probes parental love for a child, husband-wife dynamics when the couple is under impossible stress, genetics, and a host of issues that are raised when you are the District Attorney and your adolescent son is accused of murdering a classmate. Naturally, you are removed from the case and your protege prosecutes. But at home you are like a caged tiger aware of exactly what will happen and powerless to stop it. The trial also forces you to divulge a side of yourself you've never mentioned to your wife of 30 years. To say she is profoundly shaken is to understate. What does your buried family history have to do with your son's guilt or innocence? Amidst all this the trial begins and among the details are a psychiatric evaluation of your son that is...unexpected. All this leads to an ending that is unforseen yet exactly appropriate for the characters involved. Many comparisons have been made with Scott Turow's classic Presumed Innocent, and in the quality of the book the linkage is apt. But Landay's work is not nearly as cool and clinical as Turow's; this is a family drama as much as a legal one and the author has the capacity to tell a great tale. Unforgettable. ( )
  neddludd | Oct 6, 2014 |
Defending Jacob is a terrific legal thriller, family drama, and in a sense a political thriller that deals with the wrangling and inner workings of a local political office. Andy Barber is an Assistant District Attorney near Boston who becomes involved with a murder case of a 14 year old boy who attends the same school as his son, Jacob. Ben Rifkin was found stabbed to death in a wooded area between his home and the school, just off the path that is traveled by many of the youths that live in the area and attend the same school as Ben. The same path traveled daily by Jacob Barber. As the Assistant DA it is Andy’s job to see that justice is done. That is until his son Jacob is accused of the murder. As a prosecutor, Andy knows exactly how the legal system works and how it can fail, and it is his wish that his son not to be one of the failures of the justice system. Jacob professes his innocence and, being his father, Andy believes him. After all, what parent can believe their child capable of murder?
Once Jacob is accused, Andy is relieved of his duties at the DA’s office for the duration of the investigation and trial that will surely follow. Neal Logiudice (la-JOO-dis), a prosecutor who wants Andy’s job, is now the prosecutor on the Ben Rifkin murder case and it appears that he will stop at nothing to find Jacob Barber guilty and Andy guilty by association.
The book jumps back and forth between the investigation and trial of the murder and a Grand Jury session where Prosecutor Logiudice is questioning ex-Assistant DA Andy Barber. We do not know what crime the Grand Jury has been convened to determine whether to indict, however, this was a very effective way to inform the reader there was much more going on than the trial of Jacob Barber.
The author’s cleverness in unfolding the story of the investigation and trial will lead you to vacillate between Jacob’s guilt and his innocence, and the Grand Jury sessions, even though not part of the Ben Rifkin murder trial, contribute to the vacillation. However, Andy never waivers from belief in his son’s innocence even as evidence mounts. When shocking revelations about Jacob surface, and Andy is forced to confront his own past, one that he was so effective in hiding from his family as well as himself, does he consider perhaps he might somehow have failed is son.
Defending Jacob is a gripping story, one that I could not put down and caused me to go to work with tired eyes from staying up late reading. Highly recommended.
  C.J.McBride-Stern | Sep 17, 2014 |
Ending jumped in unexpectedly. Out of character for the characters involved. I thought the writing was not very creative, metaphors that made me moan. ( )
  padmacatell | Sep 8, 2014 |
I really didn't feel sympathy for the characters until the very end. The plot was generic, very L& O, so still entertaining. What bumped up the star count was the last few pages. ( )
  owlbeyourfriend | Sep 2, 2014 |
This is a tight and fast-paced legal thriller that touches on some very sensitive topics. There is lots of courtroom drama set against a very realistic picture of a family in crisis. Andy Barber is an Assistant District Attorney in a suburban Massachusetts community. He has an idyllic family - his wife Laurie and his fourteen year old son Jacob, but when a shocking local crime occurs close to home, the crime drags this perfect little family into a living nightmare. William Landay does a fine job of creating tension and he keeps that tension throughout the book until the very end. The shocking ending to Andy's story causes us to wonder how far we would go to save one of our own children. Life can change in the blink of an eye and this book shows just how quickly things can get out of control. I enjoyed the courtroom scenes in the book. Landay uses these scenes to reveal little plot twists which made me begin to think that there was much more to this crime than what we see through Andy's eyes. The Barber family secrets cost Andy dearly when they are revealed. ( )
  Romonko | Aug 21, 2014 |
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William Landayprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gardner, GroverNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In April 2008, Neal Logiudice finally subpoenaed me to appear before the grand jury.
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Here is the dirty little secret: the error rate in criminal verdicts is much higher than anyone imagines. Not just false negatives, the guilty criminals who get off scott-free--those "errors" we recognize and accept. They are the predictable result of stacking the deck in the defendants' favor as we do. The real surprise is the frequency of the false positives, the innocent men found guilty. That error rate we do not acknowledge--do not even think about--because it calls so much into question. The fact is, what we call proof is as fallible as the witnesses who produce it, human beings all. Memories fail, eyewitness identifications are notoriously unreliable, even the best-intentioned cops are subject to failures of judgment and recall. The human element in any system is always prone to error.
A jury verdict is just a guess--a well-intentioned guess, generally, but you simply cannot tell fact from fiction by taking a vote.
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Book description
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.

Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385344228, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2012: A fast, compelling, and compulsively readable courtroom drama, Defending Jacob tells the story of a district attorney’s son who is accused of killing a classmate. As the father attempts to prove his son’s innocence, Landay explores uncomfortable territory: can a tendency toward violence be inherited? Is the capacity for murder a genetic disposition? The author, a former district attorney, gets the taut nuances just right, capturing the subtleties of a trial in a packed courtroom, where a small rustle or murmur can signify a lot. In the end Landay pulls off a clever plot device that doesn’t reveal itself until the final pages. --Neal Thompson

Featured Guest Review: Chevy Stevens on Defending Jacob

Chevy Stevens grew up on a ranch on Vancouver Island and still calls the island home. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Still Missing and Never Knowing.

From the first few pages of Defending Jacob, I knew this book was special. More than an exciting courtroom drama that combines the best elements of a legal and psychological thriller, it also delves into the heart of a family, and will rip yours out in the process.

When a young boy is found brutally murdered in the woods in a peaceful New England town, his body hastily covered with leaves, the community is shaken to its core. No one more so than Andy Barber, a well-respected assistant district attorney whose fourteen-year-old son, Jacob, went to school with the boy. Sure, Jacob is a typical moody teenager, hiding in his room all day with his headphones and lap top, but Andy loves him more than anything in this world--and would do anything to protect him.

While Andy's wife, Laurie, struggles with the possibility that there's a killer on the loose and their own son could be next, Andy's determined to find the culprit and bring him to justice. He immerses himself in a maelstrom of angry parents demanding answers, police hell-bent on making an arrest, and the complicated lives of teenagers, with their own secrets, and reasons for keeping them.

When, in a stunning turn of events, Jacob is arrested for the crime, both Andy and Laurie are stalwart in their defense of their son: there's no way their child could've committed this terrible act. As more shocking facts are revealed and lies uncovered, Andy is pushed to the edge and his twenty-year marriage tested. Beautiful Laura, his college sweetheart and love of his life, begins to fade in front of his eyes, crumbling under the pressure of the trial, the public accusations, and the weight of her own doubts--in her son and her husband. When truths about Andy's past comes to surface, he must chose between the life he thought he'd left behind, and the father he wants to be.

Defending Jacob raises the question: how far would you go to protect your family? But it also leaves you wondering if anyone could answer that question, and whether we really know what we're capable of when push comes to shove.

Let's pray we never have to find out.

Featured Guest Review: Phillip Margolin on Defending Jacob

Phillip Margolin has been a Peace Corps Volunteer, a school teacher, and is the author of 15 New York Times bestsellers. He spent a quarter century as a criminal defense attorney during which he handled thirty homicide cases, including twelve death penalty cases, and argued at the United States Supreme Court. He is a co-founder of Chess for Success, a non-profit that uses chess to teach elementary school children study skills. His latest novel, Capitol Murder will be released in April, 2012.

One perk of being a bestselling author is that you are sent advance reading copies (ARCs) of books by first time authors, or published authors whose editors believe have written a breakout novel. The ARC is sent by the writer's editor in hopes that you will write a "blurb," which is a sentence or two praising the book that can be used in advertisements. The books I blurb range from fun reads to very good reads. Then there is the rare book that knocks my socks off. William Landay's Defending Jacob is one of these gems. It is a legal thriller, but so are To Kill a Mocking Bird, Snow Falling on Cedars and Anatomy of a Murder. Defending Jacob, like these classics, separates itself from the pack because it is also a searing work of literary fiction.

At the heart of Landay's exceptional novel is a parent's worst nightmare. Assistant district attorney Andy Barber, his wife, Laurie, and their teenage son, Jacob, are living an idyllic existence in a middle class Massachusetts suburb until one of Jacob's classmates is stabbed to death in the picturesque park where the locals jog, walk their dogs and picnic. It soon becomes clear that Jacob is the prime suspect and the Barbers have to confront the possibility that the child they have doted from birth may be a sociopathic killer.

Andy takes a forced leave of absence from his job and helps defend the son he loves from a charge he cannot believe is true. Is he engaging in self-deception? How far will he go to protect his family? Laurie wonders if something she did as a parent has created a monster and her guilt destroys her. And then there is Jacob. Is he a typical angst filled teenager or a psychopathic monster? Landay skillfully keeps the reader guessing about Jacob's culpability and true nature up to the shocking final chapters.

What makes Defending Jacob special is the way Landay gives the reader the twists, turns and surprises found in the best legal thrillers while making its centerpiece the tragedy faced by a normal family who are thrust into a nightmare.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:07 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. 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. 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.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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