19 May 2012

Review: DEFENDING JACOB, William Landay

  • Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1551 KB
  • Print Length: 431 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1409115372
  • Publisher: Orion (March 15, 2012)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007G92QGO
  • Source: I bought it
Synopsis (Amazon)

When a teenaged boy is discovered stabbed to death in the woods adjoining the local high school, a wave of shock ripples through the suburban community of Newton, outside of Boston.
Assistant district attorney Andy Barber is used to dealing with murder and its after-effects, but with his own son, Jacob, also a student at the school, he too is anxious for a swift arrest and conviction. But as the kids appear to be stonewalling the cops and the investigation stalls, evidence emerges that ties Jacob to the crime - and suddenly Andy faces a very different challenge: preventing his son from being convicted of murder.
Together with his wife, Laurie, the family closes ranks in the midst of an increasingly hostile community as Andy prepares for the trial of his life, the one trial he cannot afford to lose. Especially when the emergence of his own dark family secrets threatens to undermine Jacob's defence. And as the drama reaches its climax, Andy and Laurie have to face every parent's toughest questions: how well do you really know your own child, and how far would you go to save them?

My take

My face-to-face book discussion group has chosen this for its next discussion and there'll certainly be  plenty to discuss.

This is a difficult book to write a non-revealing review of - so my apologies in advance if I reveal too much of the plot for you.

When his son Jacob is accused of murdering a fellow student Assistant DA Andy Barber is suddenly on the "other" side. Used to prosecuting for murder, now he has to face his protege in court.
Andy manages to worm his way into the defence team mainly so he can make sure the defence is played out the way he wants it to be. He realises also that he needs to tell both his wife Laurie and his son Jacob his biggest secret - that his own father is in gaol convicted of murder, and worse, that he comes from a whole line of murderers.

Andy and Laurie realise that they don't know their son, whom they've always regarded as "normal", as well as they thought they did. Laurie recalls incidents of violence in his childhood and they both recognise that Jacob is a bit reclusive, with only a small number of friends. Then a psychologist employed by the defence to assess Jacob diagnoses an unusual coldness towards others, a lack of empathy, and the emotional age of a much younger child. So part of the discussion becomes what is responsible for the way Jacob has turned out - is it as Laurie feels, their fault, or does he have the "murder gene" as Andy fears?

There's an interesting role given to viral networking too. All Jacob's fellow students have Facebook accounts through Jacob's Facebook discussions Andy finds out far more than he wants to know.

So yes, I think my friends will have a great time (in my absence) discussing DEFENDING  JACOB.
I think the plot structure is another thing that will take their attention. The narrative operates through a number of time frames - some separated by over 12 months - beginning with the discovery of the body and progressing through to Jacob's trial. We also have the narrative of Andy's story and some of the court transcripts. And then there is the twist at the end....

Not every one will enjoy the book (Reactions to Reading didn't),  but you will find it thought provoking. I would liken it to Lionel Shriver's WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN.

My rating: 4.6

William Landay's website


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - Thanks for this review. I honestly still haven't made up my mind whether I'll read it or not. It's certainly a different kind of novel...

Marce said...

I tried to glance your review since you said possible plut 'spoilers', sounds great. And if it gets you to think like We need to talk about Kevin, disturbing but a great read, I'm in.

kathy d. said...

I am great fan of legal thrillers, but not psychological suspense and we I won't read WE Need to Talk about Kevin, not my type of book.

However, I am so drawn to legal mysteries that I may try this and see how it goes.


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