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

by William Landay

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1,758None3,999 (3.93)145
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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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 |
I loved this book and I will probably read it again some day knowing what I do now!!

I'm guessing you've read the book description so I won't go into the whole plot. I will tell you that the author describes the emotions of each character so amazingly that I felt everything right along with them. Jacob is a 14 year old kid - my son is 15- the agony, fear, anger, etc. that these parents experience as they watch their child suffer and learn things about him that they never knew before made me sick to my stomach but I could not put this book down. Landay is an expert at weaving a tale where you think you know and then you find out you don't.

I will be reading his other two books and I will recommend this one to everyone! ( )
  botkin05 | Dec 27, 2013 |
I was not enamored with this book as it seems most people were. I thought the character development was poor, the dialogue awkward, and the plot weak. ( )
  BettyTaylor56 | Dec 18, 2013 |
I can't say enough good things about this book! I loved everything about this book and I didn't want to put it down the entire time I was reading it. The author does a great job keeping the reader interested and making the characters totally relate able. I love how the book will go from the dad on testfiying before the grand jury and then telling the story through other parts. I didn't expect the ending at all and this for sure a book that I be reading again and I am sure my family and friends will love this book as well. I loved reading about how each of the family members dealt with the pain and how it affected them. I am sure going to check out more books by this author.

If you haven't read this book yet I strongly recommend it anyone. Here is the link to amazon where you can buy the book. If you pick it up please come back and let me know what you think of it.

If you have read it what did you think of it?
FTC-I received this book for free in return for my review. The opinions expressed in this post are 100% mine. I received no other compensation for this review. ( )
  mattidw | Dec 17, 2013 |
Shudder. Every mother's worst nightmare; or worse than her worst nightmare. This novel set in a wealthy suburb of Boston in the present day is about the DA's 14yo son who ends up being a suspect and ultimately accused of the brutal murder of one of his classmates who happened to be bullying him. Jacob seems like a normal surly, uncommunicative teenager just trying to find his way -- but is something off about him? The novel is narrated by his father interspersed with what seems to be a trial transcription - but who is on trial? it is hard to tell.

This is a true thriller with lots of twists and turns. It is not quite as well written or as horrifying as Lionel Shriver's "We Need to Talk about Kevin," but nonetheless incredibly engaging. There are some truly riveting moments.

More so than parents whose children are victims of violence, this makes one see the tragedy of the parents of the children who are (or may be? . . .) the perpetrators. Could it be their fault in some way? Some by-product of poor parenting, or not paying enough attention, or is it in the genes? I liked the info about the genetic basis for personality disorders and behavior - fascinating; and I loved the quote from the criminologist re: at what point do the chemical reactions and electrical impulses in our brain translate into the 'ghost in the machine.'

This is a great read for those who like psychological suspense but must be able to tolerate descriptions of violence involving children. This is not purely a sensational whodunnit, but involves more gravitas. The last scene will stay with me for sometime - I hope I would have had the courage to do the same. ( )
1 vote jhowell | Dec 5, 2013 |
I really enjoyed this, although the only character I could really empathize with was the mother. Honestly for nearly the entire book I wished I could smack the main character, with his willful obtuseness and irritating arrogance. I felt, in his own way, that he's as much a sociopath as any of his progenitors that he's so horrified and ashamed of. I don't feel his steadfast support of his son was really a reflection of his love for him, but more about his own self-image. Likewise, he doesn't seem to have any real feelings for his wife. Whenever he speaks of her, it's all about what she does or has done for him. He's certainly only concerned for her in the most superficial way, although he excuses that to himself as prioritizing his son's needs first.

I had, of course, guessed the surprise twist at the end, fairly early in the book. It would have been hard not to, with all the broad hints. But I couldn't guess the circumstances or how it happened, and the story was compelling enough to keep me reading through to the end. I wanted to find out how it all turned out. It was definitely worth the read.

This was the Audible version, read by Grover Gardner, who did an excellent job as usual. ( )
1 vote PortM | Nov 30, 2013 |
A fascinating legal thriller that's impossible to put down, this book will continue to haunt you long after you've finished. Told from the viewpoint of a man whose shy 14-year-old son is accused of murdering a classmate, we see the slow disintegration of his family, his marriage, his profession as the legal system takes its toll. Even if the "evidence" can be explained away, even if the jury returns a not guilty verdict, can they ever escape the accusation itself? The doubts even their closest friends feel? Can his wife and child ever escape the secrets of his family history that leak out? Was he wrong to have hidden an ugly truth from them? As shattering as the accusation is, there is much more terrible in store...

There is good reason this book ended up on the New York Times Bestseller List...it's dynamite! ( )
  Carrie.Kilgore | Nov 29, 2013 |


Very solid book. I appreciate the way it was written and the various plot twists. Definitely worth a read. ( )
  bwkramer | Nov 19, 2013 |
I'm sorry to say I found this novel rather pedestrian. I think the story is meant to appeal to a certain demographic, and since I'm not part of that group, it didn't have the intended impact on me. In fact, I ended up feeling like it had been a waste of time. The story is told by assistant DA Andy Barber and begins with the murder of a teenager from his son Jacob's school. The small Massachusetts town is badly shaken up by this event, and Andy is intent on finding the murderer, but is suddenly taken off the investigation when some damning evidence is found incriminating his son Jacob. For the rest of the novel, we get the play-by-play events that lead up to Jacob's court case. Andy is not a man given to any sort of introspection, and is quite deliberately driven to do just the opposite, since he carries a past which is so difficult to bear he's made it a point all his life to simply pretend it didn't exist. So the whole novel is told by this man who basically insists that his son is innocent, simply because he is his son and refuses to consider the option that this less than charming son might actually be guilty of the crime.

I can see that for readers who are also parents, the story might be loaded with the emotional charge of "what if this happened to my own child", and the fact it's happening in 2007 with Jacob and his friends constantly tuned into Facebook and the web would make those parents consider all the dangers lurking out there in this internet age, but I didn't find anything exciting in the telling of it that could make up for the lack of that parental anxiety. Had I been a parent, perhaps I might have felt some sort of personal connection to this story about ordinary people faced with terrible events told by a dull and basically clueless protagonist. I did hold out with the hope that this might be one of these situations where the unreliable narrator is suddenly revealed to have hidden important and explosive facts that make the story suddenly become irresistibly exciting, but sadly, this was not the case and I was left feeling like I'd gotten the wrong flavour of ice cream, which turned out to be one I didn't much like, but still made myself eat it, and at the end was left with a sticky half eaten cone and syrupy stuff binding both cone and napkin to my hand. Just... yech.

I started off rating it with two stars for "it was just ok", but really, I ended up hating it for the most part, so it gets a one-star rating from me. ( )
  Smiler69 | Nov 5, 2013 |
I had mixed feelings about this book. Overall, it was an ok story, but I probably wouldn't read anything else by the author--it just wasn't my style. The author did an excellent job of writing as his characters would actually speak. Unfortunately, a lot of his characters either use courtroom jargon, teenage slang (a bad kind of fire burns inside me every time I have to read someone say the word "like" when they're not actually comparing two or more things), and psychobabble. I had a difficult time relating to any of these. It was interesting enough, but it's difficult to follow a story line when every other word in the chapter is "Objection!" I could definitely imagine this being an episode of Law and Order or some such program. ( )
  amyolivia | Oct 25, 2013 |
I kind of liked this book. It was a different story, one that you questioned all the characters. The ending was a surprise, I didn't expect it at all. ( )
  janismack | Oct 15, 2013 |
A very well-done family drama in the guise of a legal thriller. Or maybe vice versa? Either way, this story of a prosecuting attorney forced off a case when his son is arrested for the crime raises a lot of uncomfortable questions and doesn't even try to answer them all. I found the narrative compelling and the characters believable and well-developed. And while I was somewhat prepared for the first "twist" at the end, the second took me completely by surprise and left me stunned and my eyes tear-filled. Even if you don't think this is your type of book, give it a shot. You might be surprised. ( )
  katiekrug | Oct 15, 2013 |
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