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Defending Jacob: A Novel by William Landay

Defending Jacob: A Novel (original 2012; edition 2012)

by William Landay

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1,8702123,695 (3.93)146
magicbearcat's review
I really thought this book was thought provoking, but was disappointed by the ending. ( )
  magicbearcat | Apr 28, 2012 |
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From the beginning, I could tell that the very knowledgeable Mr. Landay was a former District Attorney. 'Defending Jacob' is a legal thriller this is well-written with the purpose of educating as well as entertaining.

This novel has generated a lot of hype and I can understand why. There is a lot going on when a family tries to cope with their lives after their 14-year-old son is charged with the murder of a classmate. I didn't like any of the characters and that was probably the intent of the author. Be prepared for twists, turns and an ending you won't see coming.

Very suspenseful, page-turning, and unforgettable. You won't regret reading this one! ( )
  pegmcdaniel | Jul 6, 2014 |
I did not expect that ending! ( )
  Jolynne | Jul 4, 2014 |
Having read a few romance novels recently, I can honestly say that ‘Defending Jacob’ was not light-hearted and uplifting as those stories were. Throughout the novel, I would read a little, and then have to put the book down to give myself a reprieve from the urgency and intensity of the plot. As I saw Andy Barber’s family become unraveled as his son, Jacob, stood on trial for murder, I felt myself growing so empathetic to what might be one of life’s most devastating experiences….to be a parent in support of a teenage child accused of a heinous crime.
Without giving too much away, let me just say that I did not foresee the story ending in such a tragic way. I don’t quite know what I expected, but being the eternal optimist, I’d hoped that relationships would be rekindled and that life would move on for Andy, Laurie, and their son Jacob.
‘Defending Jacob’ was not grisly or gruesome in the way that the story unfolded, and I very much appreciated that. I was also intrigued with the issue regarding genetic predisposition toward violence and social deviance, which was woven into the storyline. With growing advances in genetics, researchers today know so much more about how genetics combines with environment to influence social behavior. I found this to be a thought-provoking topic, and one to consider regarding acts of violence within our community. Are we really in control of our actions, or are some of us predestined toward acts of violence, and if so, how can we morally alter that course in individual lives? ( )
  haymaai | Jul 1, 2014 |
While listening to the audiobook, I had commented that the characters were annoying me, but I couldn't have articulated exactly why at the time. I realized later that it was because their interactions with each other were frequently so true to life--conversations where one person didn't really listen to the other, and behavior based on assumptions and lack of self-awareness--that they were just frustrating the devil out of me. I don't know whether I've ever told characters in an audiobook to "shut up and listen" more than I did during Defending Jacob, but I think that's a good indicator of how well-developed the human drama of this novel is.

MORE: http://www.3rsblog.com/2014/02/audiobook-talk-defending-jacob-william-landay.htm... ( )
  Florinda | Jun 30, 2014 |
When the body of a fourteen-year-old boy is found in a wooded area near the middle school, veteran Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber decides to lead the prosecution team. Neal Logiudice, one of his underlings quickly questions whether Barber has a conflict of interest since his own son attends the same school and is in the same grade. Barber maintains there is no problem because his son didn’t really know the victim. Barber is convinced the real murderer is a pedophile living nearby.
Loguidice doesn’t believe the pedophile was the murderer and finds one piece of evidence tying Barber’s fourteen-year-old son Jacob to the murder. Barber is placed on leave and sets out to prove his son’s innocence. In the process, he and his wife have very different perspectives on the possibility that Jacob could actually have been the murderer. That threatens their marriage. How well do parents really know their teenage sons? What are their roles when their child is charged with a vicious crime?
The story moves along in both prose, telling what was happening at particular points, including in the courtroom, and in the transcript from a hearing. The pieces all come together in unexpected ways.
Several sections of the book discuss the shortcomings of our legal system.
On the whole, the book was a well-written quick read. There was some repetition and could have be shortened without losing anything. Without looking at the name of the speakers, it was difficult, in most cases, to differentiate the characters. This was especially true when one of them is a teenage boy who sounds like one of the adults. I also found one of the primary events too unrealistic. ( )
  Judiex | Jun 18, 2014 |
A tough book for parents. A crime/trial book, it carries you through from start to finish of the murder of a child. The ending .... well. Read for yourself and tell me if you had it figured out, and what you thought! ( )
  limamikealpha | Jun 5, 2014 |
This has been on my to-read list for a while so I was pleased when my bookclub chose it as their April read. Once I started this book I couldn’t stop listening – it was fascinating. I enjoy legal thrillers so I knew I would probably like the book, but was totally drawn in with the complexity, conflict and drama.

This was a perfect choice for bookclub discussion. Those with and without children had some different opinions about the parents decisions, especially Andy’s behavior, but almost everyone enjoyed the book. The topic that received the most discussion was the ending. I wasn’t thrilled with it but it was an understandable outcome.

Audio production: The book was narrated by Grover Gardner, an excellent choice who added just the right nuance to the voices for this emotional thriller. The early part of the story requires a little extra attention to detail but once the characters and plot became clear, it was easy listening. ( )
  UnderMyAppleTree | May 6, 2014 |
A parent's worse nightmare comes true in this tale about a child accused of murder and the father who will go to great lengths to prove his innocence. Andy Barber is the father, and he is the one who tells the story--which at times he tells in the form of a testimony before a grand jury. Andy is no stranger to the courtroom, having been an assistant D.A. for the Massachusetts town in which he lived with the wife Laurie and son Jacob. Andy's life started to unravel the day a classmate of his son was found dead with three stab wounds in his chest. At first Andy actually helps with the investigation, but then the evidence starts to point toward his own son and he is abruptly taken off the case. His son is arrested but never for a minute does Andy believe that Jacob had anything to do with the crime. Andy has spent his life trying to escape the criminal legacy of his father and grandfather, and one of his worst fears is realized when the violent nature of his ancestors is revealed. Still, Andy wants to defend his son at all costs and will not even entertain the thought that Jacob could have problems, a viewpoint that his wife Laurie doesn't share.
This thought provoking book reads like a legal thriller, but the issues it explore are far deeper than most. The central questions it asks about the responsibilities of parents and nature vs. nurture would make it a good candidate for book discussion groups looking for some meaty issues to stimulate their conversation. I highly recommend this to fans of crime fiction who would like something thought provoking yet suspenseful. ( )
  debs4jc | May 3, 2014 |
I reviewed this book on Amazon. I enjoyed the book but did not find the resolution believable.

http://www.amazon.com/review/R16EAH29EBR2YR ( )
  Jonri | May 1, 2014 |
From my blog

I am disappointed I went with the hype, ugggh. This was on many bloggers Top Ten Lists when it came out and I have had it on my Wishlist for 2 years. I finally downloaded, thankfully on special. I do not enjoy thrillers that manipulate the reader, it is a pet peeve of mine.

First, I considered putting it down the first 30% of the book, I just couldn't get engaged, the characters did nothing for me and it was in Boston which I love but nothing about Boston, it could have been anywhere and I couldn't figure out where it was leading the reader. Bloggers recommended to read on, well it did improve in Part 2, finally which is why I will bump up to 3 1/2 stars, it was sitting at 2 for a long time.

Jacob has been charged with murder and we follow his court journey with his parents Andy and Laurie. Andy was the DA but put on administrative leave throughout the case. I found Andy's actions throughout to be ludicrous and illegal, he felt he was in control but he was completely out of control with inappropriate actions. I never understood Laurie, I don't think her character was developed or in line with what the author wanted us to believe. The Psychiatrist feedback was interesting but went no where, the idea of the 'murder gene' could have been interesting as part of the case. The grandfather was intriguing but played a small part in relation to the family history. Did Jacob inherit a tendency to violence?

Overall this book was far to long. It was repetitive in areas and left to many questions for the reader. If there is detail the reader expects answers or the question is why go into that amount of detail. As a parent I understand believing in your child, supporting and doing all that you can but not once did they ask Jacob did you do it, completely bogus or did they choose to have their head in the sand. It could have been slightly edgy waiting for the jury's decision since we talked about inaccuracies of the law etc but then the novel goes in a different direction, it felt like a sell out to me at the end.

I thought the ending was just ok, not a shocker to me, I can see many loving or hating it actually. I may just have been happier that I completed the novel and it was over. I wish I had decided to give up on it actually, not one I would recommend to fans of Thrillers.


"the act does not create guilt unless the mind is also guilty." Kindle 30%

We swear that we can take any abuse, beat any challenge. No test is too great. Anything for our kids. But no one is bulletproof, parents least of all. Our kids make us vulnerable. Kindle 65% ( )
  marcejewels | Apr 23, 2014 |
Wonderful wonderful book. The pain and denial jumped off the page and was in your face. While Jacob's mother handles the tragedy in her way his father refuses to see even the possibility there is anything wrong. The father's background begins to emerge and the reader can see why the denial is so strong. And the ending - what can I say? ( )
  Jane1551 | Apr 20, 2014 |
This is a legal thriller with enough other stuff going on to make a great discussion book as well. The crime involves a young teenager who is stabbed in a park on his way to school. The district attorney in charge of the case is Andy Barber. When things finally start moving in the investigation, Andy’s son Jacob becomes the prime suspect. Andy is convinced his son didn’t do it. However, the dead boy was actually bullying Jacob in school. It also turns out that Andy’s father, grandfather, and great grandfather were all murderers, so the issue of a “murder gene” or genetic tendency to violence gets dragged into the case. It brings up issues of can a parent ever really know their children. The ending includes multiple huge twists. ( )
  ktoonen | Apr 8, 2014 |
TLC book club read. Wow. The author sums up the crux of the novel in The Story Behind section :"What would you do…..If". 14 yo Jacob is fingered as a murderer. The book is written from his father, Andy's, viewpoint. Lots of twists, turns and surprises. And like Picoult, an ethical issue thrown in. Andy, Jacob and Andy's incarcerated father all have the "murder gene". Does that make Jacob a murderer? Andy and his wife, Laurie, handle Jacob's trial differently (and in a backstory, Andy's father protects Jacob in a third way). All bringing forward the central questions - Would you recognize murder tendencies in your child? And what would you DO if your child was accused of a horrendous crime? The Columbine and Newtown parents must be struggling with this same dilemma. A very thought provoking with no pat answer book. Excellent book discussion on this book. ( )
  nancynova | Mar 29, 2014 |
I thought this was a really good book. It's a courtroom drama, a little bit of thriller, and a family drama all thrown together. I really disliked the mother from the start. She couldn't wait to throw blame all around and showed no support when Jacob wasn't around. She couldn't wait to throw the father under the bus for wrongs he had done. Loved the suspenseful nature of the book. A few twists that I really didn't see coming. It ended in a way I certainly didn't expect. I gave it four stars instead of five because I was left wanting a little more closure at the end. ( )
  CinderH | Feb 28, 2014 |
Good conversation starter. It really challenged me to think how I would react in such a situation. Very satisfying read. I recommend it to Jody Picoult readers, though we get only the father's point of view. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
This book did not live up to the hype, for me. I kept thinking of other books that covered similar ground, but much better. It was an OK vacation read, not more, and I won't be tempted to read it again. ( )
  StormySleep | Feb 6, 2014 |
This book did not live up to the hype, for me. I kept thinking of other books that covered similar ground, but much better. It was an OK vacation read, not more, and I won't be tempted to read it again. ( )
  StormySleep | Feb 6, 2014 |
Some great and surprising twists and turns. Kept me guessing all the way to the end. ( )
  dreamingbear | Feb 6, 2014 |
I read this book for a book club, but it's not a genre I would have chosen myself. Once I got into it, the book was hard to put down and I definitely wanted to know what would happen next. Our book club consisted of attorneys and legal professionals and we all agreed that the legal proceedings were very realistic. In that way, it was fun to read.

However, the characters were pretty stereotypically masculine and feminine, without a whole lot else going on. Though the situations were very high emotion, the book was told from the point of view of the father, who is stoic throughout, which was a little disconcerting. The mother was a communicator and highly emotional, however, even compliments from the father/narrator felt backhanded.

The story and idea of the book was interesting, but I wouldn't recommend it. ( )
  ahgonzales | Feb 5, 2014 |
This is a very disturbing book that centers on a parent's love and protection for a child. Jacob Barber is accused of murdering a classmate and the story jumps back and forth between the past and the present. The transition is jerky. The language in the book is harsh and the grammar is atrocious, especially for white-collar workers. The cursing is too extensive. The story presents other characters that might have committed the crime: a pedophile and other classmates, but Jacob becomes the primary choice. The before, during, and after the trial scenes provide a glimpse of the life of the accused family. The doubt of the mother cascades into depression and action. The big issue of the story is the age-old argument of nature versus nurture. The answer is chilling. Landay hits the nail on the head with the characterization of Andy and Laurie Barber, but Andy seems a little flat at times. Andy's emotions simmer, just waiting to erupt, whereas Laurie acts on her emotions. The characterization of Jacob needs a little more development. The story line reminds me of The Bad Seed by William March. ( )
  delphimo | Jan 26, 2014 |
I took a break from moody, atmospheric mysteries to read this book, and while I found the ending a disappointment, it was a fun read overall. This is not a high-brow legal thriller, and that's okay. Landay told a good story that kept me interested. I think the dialogue and actions of Jacob's parents showed them to be pretty despicable, and Jacob certainly was no prize.

It's a great book for when you need light reading fare. ( )
  quillmenow | Jan 22, 2014 |
Defending Jacob. William Landay. 2013. What a suspenseful book! I think I read it in two days. Jacob, a 14 year old boy, is accused of murdering a classmate. The murder, the investigation, the trial, and the aftermath are related by Jacob’s father, a former assistant DA, to a grand jury. This is a great court room drama. I’ve been keeping an eye on this title for months and finally downloaded it on my Kindle. I was so disappointed in Gone Girl, that I was afraid this one wouldn’t be any good either, so I was pleasantly surprised. ( )
  judithrs | Jan 12, 2014 |
Andy Barber is the chief ADA in a small town when one of the students at his son's school is found knifed to death. When his son is charged with the murder, his world is upended.

Andy makes every effort to protect his son. He knows the system and that’s what scares him. “You imagine the courts are reliable, that wrong results are rare, and therefore I ought to have trusted the system.. . Here’s 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…The real surprise is the frequency of false positives, the innocent men found guilty. . .Our blind trust in the system is the product of ignorance and magical thinking, and there was no way I was going to trust my son’s fate to it. Not because I believed he was guilty, I assure you, but precisely because he was innocent.”

And there’s a long history of violence in Andy’s family. The pressures on the family mount as *all* of their relationships bend and many break under the strain of the accusation. Andy's father is in prison for murder. Is there such a thing as a "violence gene"?

Landay has written a very compelling story, nicely integrating current technology and how kids use it, that plays on every parents' fears. Just how well do we know out children? You get a real sense of the pressure on the family, the ostracizing by the community, and the doubt that creeps into the minds of the parents.

First rate. Great book for a discussion group of nature/nurture, parental responsibility, child relationships, the legal system, a host of things. ( )
  ecw0647 | Jan 4, 2014 |
I've been a parent now for some 28 years. I can't remember a moment in all that time when I didn't wish I could tiptoe into my kids' heads, a la Mrs. Darling in Peter Pan, and sort through their thoughts, tossing the nasty ones into the dark corners, fluffing up the pretty ones and laying them over all like a quilt.
Despite them being of us, our kids are also not us. Or are they more us than we think?
In Defending Jacob, author William Landay takes us on a terrifying trip through the lives of a family whose slightly odd son is accused of murder. Complicating the story, the father in question is the lead district attorney, and he has a few family secrets he'd rather not reveal.
We never know, for sure, anything about this story. Hints are given, people act on fractured bits of information, steps are taken that remove the ability to clear up the matter. It becomes a tense game of did he or didn't he, of will we find out or won't we?
I couldn't put this down. My kids, god love 'em, have had their challenges at times. I've found out, much later, about things that they've done, secrets they held from me. Most of these are benign. But that's not to say all of them are. I don't know how I'd react in the situation described in the book - but it's just close enough to our internal parental fears that it grips you, right until the still unsatisfying last page.
Unsatisfying in terms of surety. Totally satisfying and deeply disturbing in terms of the ride we've been taken on. I'm going to be looking for more to read by Mr. Landay. Just not right away. Something light, first, I think, to cleanse the palate. ( )
  Dabble58 | Jan 1, 2014 |
Very slow book. In fact, I had to restart the book because I put the book down in defeat. I was fairly indifferent to this book right after I finished it. I don't like the ending. I don't like the narrator. I don't care for anyone in the book, really. However, title of the book, the style of the book, the narrator, the ending...it all wraps together to create layers. I'm not sure if the author meant for that to happen...but I will give him the benefit of the doubt. ( )
  lesmel | Dec 29, 2013 |
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