Defending Jacob by William Landy
2012 Blackstone Audio
Reader: Grover Gardner
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)
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.
Defending Jacob is an intense psychological thriller, peopled with believable characters and an energetic plot. I thoroughly enjoyed this Barnes & Noble Recommends selection. The pacing is even and taut and author kept me guessing all the way to the very end of the novel. I didn’t care much for Andy Barber, but then, I’m not sure I was supposed to. He was rather full of himself, coming across as a self-righteous, arrogant husband and father. It’s hard to say if my reaction to Andy is due to his perhaps all-too-accurate characterization or the manner in which audio book reader Grover Gardner depicted him while reading Andy’s dialogue. Grover Gardner is not one of my favorite readers. He doesn’t do a very good job distinguishing between characters and his female voice portrays women as silly or whiny. However, apart from the narrator, I found this mystery extremely compelling and was anxious to grab my Nano and listen to another chapter at every free moment.
On a father’s anguish:
…What was the motive? I don’t mean anger, greed, jealousy, that kind of motive, because there can’t be an ordinary motive in this case, there can’t, it just doesn’t make sense. Who could feel that kind of, of rage against Ben, against any little kid? It just doesn’t make sense. It just doesn’t make sense.” Rifkin put the four fingertips of his right hand on his forehead and worked the skin in slow circles. “What I mean is: what separates these people? Because I’ve felt those things, of course, those motives—angry, greedy, jealous—you’ve felt them, everybody’s felt them. But we’ve never killed anyone. You see? We never could kill anyone. But some people do, some people can. Why is that?”
A good marriage drags a long tail of memory behind it. A single word or gesture, a tone of voice can conjure up so many remembrances. Laurie and I had been flirting like this for thirty-odd years, since the day we met in college and we both went a little love-crazy. Things were different now, of course. At fifty-one, love was a quieter experience. We drifted through the days together. But we both remembered how it all started, and even now, in the middle of my middle age, when I think of that shining young girl, I still feel a little thrill of first love, still there, still burning like a pilot light.
Final Thoughts: Landy is a skilled storyteller, pulling the reader in from the opening pages. I look forward to delving into his backlist (Mission Flats, which won the Dagger Award as best debut crime novel in 2003 and The Strangler, which was nominated for the Strand Magazine Critics Award for best crime novel in 2007). Defending Jacob is a solid work of crime fiction and will appeal to fans of Dennis Lehane, Lee Child, Jodi Picoult and Harlan Coben. It would also make for an excellent book club choice. There’s certainly a lot to discuss—including the shocking twist at end!