Pride cometh – “Defending Jacob” by William Landay

April 17, 2013 at 8:21 pm Leave a comment

“Defending Jacob” by William Landay, Published in 2012 

I have this rather annoying habit of always being really proud of the fact that I can guess endings to books and films.  I am usually right in my guess-work and get some kind nerdy pleasure in saying “I knew it!” My poor husband has put with me for the last thirteen years leaning over in the movie theater and whispering “I totally know what is going to happen.”  If it drives him crazy he has never said so, but I think he suffers in silence.  I bring this up because this novel put my annoying habit to shame.  Not only did I not predict the ending, but I pridefully thought I had guessed the ending.  Then it was even more of a “oh crap” moment at the end of the book because I was so wrong. And that is a tremendously good thing.

Dartmouth Bookstore (Hanover, NH)

Dartmouth Bookstore (Hanover, NH) (Photo credit: William Landay)

This books opens with Andy Barber, a well respected D.A. in Massachusetts, in the courtroom on the stand as a witness.  He is being questioned by his former colleague and is recounting the investigation of  a murder.  Andy had been in charge of investigating the death of Ben Rifkin who had been killed by three knife wounds while walking through the woods on his way to his high school.  But after a few weeks of a fairly unsuccessful investigation, Andy is pulled off the case by his supervisor.  It seems that Andy’s son Jacob has become the main suspect in the murder.  There are Facebook posts implicating Jacob and a knife that he had shown other kids at school matches the description of the murder weapon.  Suddenly, Andy finds himself on the opposite side of the courtroom helping defend the alleged criminal while trying to keep his home-life as normal as possible.

Andy finds himself finally facing his family legacy and the fact that his son Jacob may be more than just a moody, self-absorbed teenage.  But to Andy even if the Jacob is capable of murder this is really more about how he would do anything to protect his family.  And as everything seems to be falling apart, Andy is blindly defending Jacob against everybody, his wife, the police, the prosecutor, the community and sadly even himself. All of this inevitably leads to the question of whether there is indeed something wrong with Jacob and whether he is capable of murder.

This novel is a great example of what a good suspense novel can be.  It examines not just the murder case itself.  It looks at what a murder does to a community, what a court trial does to a family and how the fall-out from all of it can lay waste to what was once a very idyllic life.   It also makes the reader look at parenting – as parents what are we willing to do for our children and is there a point where that type of unconditional love becomes unhealthy and dangerous.  Whatever that point is, I certainly hope it doesn’t happen by watching “Toy Story” over and over again.  If so, I am in a lot of trouble.

Other reviews to check out:


Entry filed under: April 2013 reads. Tags: , , , .

Let’s keep the world a civilized place, more gin please- “Farewell, Dorothy Parker” by Ellen Meister Honor and Obey – “The Aviator’s Wife” by Melanie Benjamin

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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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