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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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2,1392383,058 (3.92)156
I really thought this book was thought provoking, but was disappointed by the ending. ( )
  magicbearcat | Apr 28, 2012 |
English (242)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (244)
Showing 1-25 of 242 (next | show all)
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 |
Jacob Barber, son of Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber, finds himself accused of the stabbing murder of his classmate Ben Rifkin. While Andy and his wife tirelessly defend their son the upscale community of Newton quickly turn their backs on them. Knowing the ins and outs of the legal system and how it works Andy will seemingly stop at nothing to prove his sons innocence. Unfortunately, along the way, some of his closely guarded family secrets come to light. Things are not looking good for Jacob and Andy begins to question the validity of trusting the legal system.

The story is narrated by Andy and his voice is intelligent, thought provoking and written in such a way that the reader can feel his emotional turmoil as his family is literally torn apart by the events taking place. This book was incredible on many different levels. It deals with the concept of false confessions, law enforcement locking in on one culprit to the exclusion of further investigation, the politics of the justice system and the behind the scenes finagling of lawyers on both sides of the bench. This book compels the readers to ask themselves “what would I do?” How unwavering is a parent’s faith in the innocence of their child? Is it real, or it is blinding? I was kept on a see-saw as I was reading. Did he? Didn’t he? He did! No wait, he didn’t. Hmmm, maybe? I won’t spoil it for anyone, but let me just say I did NOT see the ending coming. Well-done Mr. Landay!
( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
Wow. I could have stayed up all night and read this book straight through. I don't believe in reviews that rehash the story rather I prefer to share and hear how it made you feel. In that spirit...I was anxious, shocked, empathetic, floored, saddened, stressed, relieved, suspicious, and blindsided Read the book. Clearly its an avid readers wet dream. ( )
  mootzymom | Jul 2, 2015 |
I found this to be a really good read. It is not often I get a book that I don't want to put down. It was full of twists and turns as one discovers a family in turmoil. A murder case involving an assistant DA's son, and a great suspenseful read. ( )
  griffymom | Jun 30, 2015 |
I found it hard to put this book down, especially during the first half to three-quarters of it. Then I didn't want it to end. It raised some very interesting points about where genetics lie within criminal makeup. ( )
  dtaber2000 | Jun 25, 2015 |
(Audiobook) The quiet suburban town of Newton, Massachusetts is shaken when 14-year-old Ben Rifkin is found stabbed to death in a local park. Assistant district attorney Andy Barber is on the case, until it is revealed that his 14-year-old son Jacob Barber is the main suspect. The book mostly follows the Barber family in crisis mode during the Rifkin case, but the text is also interspersed with Andy's grand jury testimony that takes place six months after Jacob's trial. The context of the grand jury proceedings is a mystery until the end.

The story is told from Andy Barber's point of view. Despite having his name in the title, Jacob Barber is actually the character we know the least about. It was interesting to read the societal and psychological impact of the accusations on the family of the accused. Throughout the book Andy remains steadfast in his belief of his son's innocence and displays extreme loyalty to his son. He refuses to even consider that his young son might be capable of such a horrific crime and goes to great lengths to avoid confronting those thoughts. His wife Laurie is more conflicted, especially after learning about Andy's secret family history. Defending Jacob is a light read, but it asks many serious questions. How well do you know your family? How far would you go to protect your children? What is your moral responsibility to society? Are some people biologically compelled to kill? Are our personalities and actions shaped by genetic predispositions or the environment in which we were raised (nature vs. nurture)? It also made me reflect on the impact of our digital footprint.

The author William Landay was an assistant district attorney in Massachusetts for seven years and his experience really shines through in Andy Barber's voice. It is a fast-paced book. At one point I looked at the clock and 4 hours had gone by like nothing! The last thirty minutes of the book are what really elevated this from "liked" to "really liked." Two major developments happen in the end, one that I assumed would happen and the very last one which shocked me! (And even though everything was obviously already set in stone, I was trying to telepathically communicate with Hope: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!")

Grover Gardner narrated this audiobook. He did such a fantastic job that I will be seeking out more of his work, regardless of author! His voice was perfect for Andy Barber (the bulk of the work) and his voices for the other characters integrated flawlessly.

This book is a page turner and perfect for a rainy Saturday afternoon. If you are someone who can watch Law & Order for 12 hours in a row, I think you will like this book! Some of the themes reminded me of The Dinner by Herman Koch, although it is a different story with completely different parents! ( )
  tbritny | Apr 14, 2015 |
I'm pretty sure I'm one of the last people to read DEFENDING JACOB. It has been recommended to me over and over again and I just rarely find or make time to read books "for fun". When my cousin asked me to read it with her and it was worth the read! We both loved it!

In DEFENDING JACOB, we meet Andy while he is being grilled in front of the Grand Jury. We don't know why he is being questioned, but we do know, based on the title, that it has something to do with his son, Jacob. As Andy takes us through the story, we learn he is the Assistant District Attorney and he was assigned to the case of a teenager who was murdered on his way to school. Laurie, his wife and Jacob, their son, seem to live the idyllic life in the suburbs, until this murder happens. Everyone is on edge and the pressure is on for Andy to find the killer. Until the day he finds out that his son, Jacob, is being charged with the murder of his fellow classmate, Ben. Everything stops for Andy and he makes it his mission to defend Jacob's innocence as his father, in their community and through the court system.

Landay gives the reader plenty to think about while reading and throws in lots of twists and surprises. I never knew what to expect and that kept me reading as fast as I could. Since I have a 14-year-old son, it was hard not to imagine what we would do in this situation. The characters, the community, and the reactions of their friends were all accurately portrayed and relatable. I promise you won't expect the ending.

If you like crime fiction, this is one you should definitely add to your reading list! For just $2.99 on Kindle, it is totally worth the price. ( )
  Staciele | Apr 12, 2015 |
Decent, but not great. ( )
  creynolds | Mar 30, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was to be an Early Reviewer read. I lost the book in my house and did not find it until I moved! Basically, I am so glad I finally found the book! A great crime/courtroom drama! ( )
  katmom55 | Mar 28, 2015 |
Easy and enjoyable. ( )
  tnociti | Mar 7, 2015 |
I haven't read courtroom/lawyer drama since Grisham's Pelican Brief. There is no specific reason, I simply fell away from this genre. I read Defending Jacob as a book club book and am very glad it was chosen as one of our reads! Summaries are a dime a dozen here, meaning that I won't add another summary. If you are considering reading this book, which I would recommend, do not, under any circumstances, read anyone's spoilers. All that you will accomplish is to spoil your read! ( )
  olongbourn | Mar 1, 2015 |
Good murder mystery crime novel
  daleaz | Feb 17, 2015 |
Overall, a compelling courtroom drama; well, multiple courtroom dramas, wrapped within a murder case and the impact of the murder on the family accused and the greater community. Lots of other dynamics here make the story move quickly, but the last part of the book tries too hard to tie up loose ends -- and while I don't think the ending is that much of a twist, it was unusual. I think I liked the unraveling family aspect better than the mystery/thriller aspect of the murder trail and ensuing outcomes. ( )
1 vote Randall.Hansen | Feb 13, 2015 |
Crime-courtroom dramas don't normally make the cut for me, but this was a big exception. Engaging all the way, and the concluding elements were scintillating. ( )
  JamesMScott | Feb 9, 2015 |
It probably would have gotten 3 stars right up until the ending, which pushed it into the 4 stars category. Parts of it really dragged for me but I love what he did with the ending; I did not see it coming at all. ( )
  carebear10712 | Jan 8, 2015 |
Well written with a satisfying twist in the end that I was not expecting. ( )
  olegalCA | Dec 9, 2014 |
Well written with a satisfying twist in the end that I was not expecting. ( )
  olegalCA | Dec 9, 2014 |
When a teenage boy is found murdered, a preppy Massachusetts town is sent into turmoil. When the ADA's son becomes suspect number one, the townspeople turn on their friends and neighbors in the blink of an eye. Add to it that the ADA's family has a bloody past, and you have a legal thriller with a psychological twist. It's like a mash up between "Gone Girl" and a John Grisham novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it! ( )
  LadyLiz | Nov 25, 2014 |
In the classic legal thriller tradition of John Grisham or Scott Turow, this book also proved to be an admirable companion to We Need to Talk About Kevin. Thrown in for good measure was some interesting science on behavioral genetics, specifically the gene encoding the neurotransmitter-metabolizing enzyme monoamine oxidase A (MAOA). If the defendant inherited the "murder gene, " could that be a plausible defense to murder? But wait - the defendant didn't do it so why even go there!? William Landay writes from his experience as a prosecutor and crafts a very enjoyable tale that is destined to be on the big screen. The ending was not what I expected but maybe that's a good thing since I thought I had the whole book worked out in my head at about the three-quarters point. ( )
  kellifrobinson | Nov 24, 2014 |
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. ( )
  padmajoy | 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 |
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