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Defending Jacob by William Landay

Defending Jacob (original 2012; edition 2013)

by William Landay

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2,6832852,211 (3.9)179
Title:Defending Jacob
Authors:William Landay
Info:Large Print Press (2013), Edition: Lrg, Paperback, 616 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Defending Jacob by William Landay (2012)

  1. 50
    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. 40
    We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (Booksloth)
  3. 20
    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)
  4. 20
    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. 20
    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.
  6. 20
    The Bad Seed by William March (saratoga99)
  7. 10
    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. 10
    The Dinner by Herman Koch (myownwoman)
  9. 00
    Sycamore Row by John Grisham (Iudita)
    Iudita: Courtroom drama
  10. 00
    The Absence of Mercy by John Burley (pdebolt)
    pdebolt: Similar moral dilemma by parents of sociopath killer with different outcomes.

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» See also 179 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 289 (next | show all)
In my quest to read more fiction as part of this Cannonball Read, I've been soliciting recommendations. Some (Gone Girl) seem to roll off of everyone's tongues. Others, like this one, I'd never heard of and am bummed I didn't read sooner. It was one of those books that taunted me when it was sitting in my purse during the work day. I read it on the walk to work and the walk home. I chose to read it over watching mindless TV after a long day at work (a rare occurrence for me), and even balanced it on the shelves so I could keep reading it while I brushed my teeth at night. I was engrossed. I have one or two little issues, although even as I write them I realize that they do work pretty well within the book.

Defending Jacob is another first-person narrative, this time told using a flashback device that actually works and really weaves together a tight and interesting book. The narrator is Adam Barber, an assistant DA who prosecutes homicides among other crimes. The flashback device used is Adam testifying at a grand jury hearing set a year or so after the main events of the book. It isn't discussed in every chapter, but helps frame some parts of the discussion, introducing new components of the story. The homicide in this book is an eighth grade boy found dead in a park on weekday morning. Adam has a son, Jacob, in the same class and after a few days it becomes apparent that Jacob is the main suspect.

The book examines many different components of the issue of facing the possibility that one’s child killed another. It's not a plea to sympathize with the parents of accused murderers; it's an exploration of what it must be like, both to see one’s son facing such charges and wondering (or perhaps not wondering) somewhere deep inside if he did it. Does a good parent even entertain the notion? MUST a good parent entertain the notion? What is owed to the child? To society? To one's spouse? Is the priority the child, and to hell with the marriage? Can a marriage survive that? And what happens to the family, regardless of the guilt of the accused, during and after the trial?

These themes are explored in pretty fantastic detail. While Adam gives us the perspective, because he tells the story as a retrospective, he's able to lend clarity to what at the time may have seemed muddy or incomprehensible. He and his wife handle their son’s situation very differently, and while the author gets very close to some stereotypes of the dad vs. mom roles, he also builds them out as based more in the character of the individuals. Meaning, yes, the mother seems more emotive than the father, but the father is also a DA. Frankly, I think it would have been an even better, more interesting book if the mother were the DA and the father were a former teacher. Play around a little bit with the gendered expectations.

There are some surprises in the book, but none that come totally out of left field. It’s not predictable but it makes sense, which I think is such a great quality, and hard to come by. I like authors to avoid Deus ex Machina – it’s lazy and frustrating. But come on – we also want a little surprise in our books, right? Landay does it really well.

What most impressed me about the book is that it took a premise – the murder of a 14-year-old-boy – and kept that premise right in the middle while not making it the focus of the book. I wouldn’t describe it as a crime novel, or a thriller, but a book about a family in a very, very difficult situation.

Pick it up. It’s a good read and worth your time. ( )
  ASKelmore | Jul 8, 2017 |
Mi piacciono molto i legal-thriller specialmente quelli dove una buona parte del romanzo è ambientata in tribunale. La storia mi è piaciuta molto e il finale è stato spiazzante. Molto consigliato. ( )
  Angela.Me | Jun 10, 2017 |
Sad and scary case of a student who is stabbed to death and another boy is accused of the murder. JAcob, the accused, father is the DA. His father totally believes in his innocence and his mother questions it. He is found immocent. But is he? Fantastic ending. ( )
  joannemonck | May 17, 2017 |
A terrific, well-written book about what happens to a family when a modern tragedy occurs. In this case, it is not that their child or family member dies; the tragedy is that a young boy in their son's grade and school is killed, and their son is accused of the murder.

Since the dad, Andy, works in the DA's office (First DA is his official title), theirs is a unique view of the case and the trial. Andy wants to take the case initially since he usually takes the high profile ones. That situation remains until his son is charged with the murder, and little by little the stiff neck that Andy shows goes into the sand. He argues as the narrator that Jacob is his son and any parent would try to save him; his wife, Laurie, does her best to keep normalcy in the family as she slowly falls apart with the magnitude of this tragedy.

There are also secrets and science and for the first time Andy has to accept that he has to hire a defense lawyer. Jacob comes across as a normal, 14-year-old boy, but then there is the family time and discussions in the defense-appointed psychologist's office and more great (tragic) moments arrive.

It is so hard to review this book without giving anything away! I was ready to try to pull Andy's stiff neck out of the sand, but then Chapter 19 happened and the support of friends on a group was strong and I stuck with the book till the end. OMG! What an end. But the strength of this book is its twists and turns and hard looks at the character, and the stiff neck of the narrator. The fact that I had, um, issues with him points to a writer who understands his characters and that they are human. And humans have flaws. And to see oneself in them, or to see them for stiff-necked humans, is part of the brilliance of this novel.

Hint: it's hard to put down. Other books when on the "hold" pile while this book sucked me in. ( )
  threadnsong | Apr 21, 2017 |
This was the legal thriller that I was looking for! I would say the most riveting than any I have read in awhile!

I was hooked from the beginning until the very end. Let's just say that I couldn't put the book down.

Defending Jacob is full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the very end! A great read... You won't be disappointed! ( )
  JillsWorld5 | Apr 1, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
William Landayprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gardner, GroverNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hanssen, KurtTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Horsten, TheoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Poulsen, Anne MetteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In April 2008, Neal Logiudice finally subpoenaed me to appear before the grand jury.
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 scot-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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