Defending Jacob by William Landay (2012) – Book Review
Defending Jacob by William Landay is a family-based mystery thriller, told mainly from the perspective of a father, Andy Barber. In other parts we also see the story told from the view of a district attorney, and transcripts of Grand Jury testimony. The author is a former assistant district attorney from Massachusetts, and so his main character. As such, we are promised in-depth knowledge with true elements.
Throughout the story, the novel begs the question – What would you do to save your child?
Defending Jacob begins with a death of a school boy, and soon Andy’s teenage son is implicated in the murder of his classmate. From there we are pulled into a mix of legal yet also family drama, showing Andy having to switch roles from lead prosecutor to a parent, and the slew of repercussions that follows.
The courtroom scenes are one of the stronger elements in this book. I found the characterisation a little stiff as I didn’t seem to be able to warm to Andy much at all. His dialogue seemed stilted and the interactions with his wife were simply annoying. There are also a few contrived plot points that most seem to be able to look over, but they could be debilitating for some.
The suspense however makes this book worth reading, as Landay manages to hold back on the big reveal from an additional testimony until the very end, coming from an angle unsuspected until the final chapter. There are also interesting sections when the son is taken to a behavioural scientist, Dr Vogel.
Many crime books lately tend to involve the physical abuse angle, but Defending Jacob is more a good mystery thriller focused on psychology and drama, based on facts and the emotion that comes from such traumatic events.
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