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Defending Jacob by William Landay
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Defending Jacob (2012)

by William Landay

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2,1562403,017 (3.92)156
Member:SmithSJ01
Title:Defending Jacob
Authors:William Landay
Info:Orion, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:Read, 2013 Reads, Amazon Vine

Work details

Defending Jacob by William Landay (2012)

  1. 40
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2LZ)
    2LZ: Gone Girl is a mystery and psychological thriller rolled into one. I loved Gone Girl with the exception of the disappointing ending. Both novels were thought-provoking and engaging.
  2. 30
    We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (Booksloth)
  3. 20
    The Bad Seed by William March (saratoga99)
  4. 10
    The Client by John Grisham (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These legal thrillers are heavy hitters with emotional depth, developed characters, and frightening revelations. In both, the plot revolves around a young boy's involvement in a murder investigation and trial.
  5. 10
    Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Personal lives are in thrown into turmoil as connections to a murder threaten careers and family relationships. Despite their differences, these two legal thrillers both contain masterfully crafted characterizations and dialogue as well as emotional depth.… (more)
  6. 10
    Mystic River by Dennis Lehane (sparemethecensor)
    sparemethecensor: Both are crime novels set in Massachusetts with extensive focus on the crime's impact on family. However, Mystic River is darker and goes far more in-depth into the crime's repercussions on the families involved.
  7. 00
    Before and After by Rosellen Brown (amyblue)
    amyblue: Both deal with the situation of parents whose child is accused of murder. Defending Jacob deals more in depth with the legal concepts involved.
  8. 00
    The Absence of Mercy by John Burley (pdebolt)
    pdebolt: Similar moral dilemma by parents of sociopath killer with different outcomes.
  9. 00
    The Dinner by Herman Koch (myownwoman)
  10. 00
    Sycamore Row by John Grisham (Iudita)
    Iudita: Courtroom drama
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» See also 156 mentions

English (244)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (246)
Showing 1-5 of 244 (next | show all)
Disturbing but thought provoking. What would you do for your child if he/she had done something really wrong and was likely to do it again? Or what if you believe that he/she had not really done it, even when everyone else is certain that your child is guilty? ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
This one was a page turner for me...but...I felt as though the ending was rushed. ( )
  PiperUp | Aug 14, 2015 |
I have mixed feelings about this one... ( )
  kimg77 | Jul 30, 2015 |
Another suspenseful novel with a twisty plot. Uses an untrustworthy narrator mixed with transcription of a grand jury testimony. Not too deep and not too shallow. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
As with "The Round House: A Novel" by Louise Erdrich, "Defending Jacob" by William Landay is not ordinarily a novel that I would select on my own to read. However, it was a selection choice for me as part of LibraryThing's Secret Santa 2014. I am glad that the novel was brought to my attention.

Written by a former assistant district attorney before turning to writing novels, there is a particular authenticity that is fundamental to the depth of this novel. I believe to give this book a label (e.g. legal thriller) would also be an injustice to the depth of the experience in reading this work.

Perhaps it can all best be explained by the author himself. There is a section in the edition that I read entitled, "A Conversation with William Landay." One of the interviewer's questions is "Does plot come first for you, or character?" The author explains, "They come at the same time." He then goes on to share, "One of the pitfalls of dividing our books into genre novels versus 'literary' novels is that we have come to expect too little character out of the first and too little plot out of the second, leaving both poorer. A good novel needs both, of course, and the two should be wrapped as tight as the strands in a rope."

This novel is without a doubt "wrapped as tight as the strands in a rope." It is the best example of a literary novel that I can think of since reading "The Orchardist" by Amanda Coplin. The novel draws the reader into the lives of one family - Andy, Laurie, and Jacob Barber. The reader will be engrossed into the wide scope of relationships that compose all of their lives from the immediate to extended family relationships, adult friendships, teenage friendships, and dynamics with coworkers to mention a few. The reader will become enmeshed through the emotions as shared steadily through the eyes of the father Andy Barber but not merely as father to Jacob, husband to Laurie, but also as a son, as a man who has an unwavering belief in justice, an wavering love of his child. Within the strands of the rope, within the core of the novel, it presents a question: How far would you go to protect your child? A parent might think they know the answer to this simple question but is it a simple question? How far would you go? It is a dramatic story that is timeless in presentation and I believe will be held as a classic in the years to come.

It is a thoughtful composition that sheds light into areas where many of us are not familiar from family meetings with a criminal defense attorney to the stark spotlight of courtroom procedure to the letter of the law* to the periods of waiting between crime to investigation to trial, and the periods of waiting between the close of court session for the day and the continuation of court session on the following day through the course of a trial.

This is a book not easily picked up to read by all readers but for those readers that enter between the covers of the hardback or paperback or begin clicking the pages on their eReader (e.g. Kindle, Nook), it is an incomparable, thought-provoking experience.

*Definition of "Letter of the Law" as provided by "Black's Law Dictionary Free Online Legal Dictionary", 2nd Ed. "The strict and exact force of the language used in a statute, as distinguished from the spirit, general purpose, and policy of the statute." ( )
  Corduroy7 | Jul 22, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 244 (next | show all)
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:14 -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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