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Defending Jacob

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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.

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.

421 pages, Hardcover

First published January 31, 2012

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About the author

William Landay

9 books2,240 followers
William Landay is the author of All That Is Mine I Carry With Me and three previous novels: Defending Jacob, which won the Strand Critics Award for best mystery novel; The Strangler, listed as a best crime novel of the year by the L.A. Times, Daily Telegraph and others; and Mission Flats, winner of the Dagger Award for best first crime novel. A former assistant district attorney, he lives in Boston.

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5 stars
92,647 (31%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 23,006 reviews
Profile Image for Jill.
7 reviews11 followers
July 31, 2012
It has been YEARS since a book has had a twist that I didn't see coming. Well played William Landay, I would never have imagined the ending of this book. I will definitely have a "book hangover" from this one. I can't start a new book because I can't get this one out of my head!
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,203 reviews40.8k followers
September 6, 2022
As soon as I got the great news that Apple TV will adapt this book into the limited TV series and cast America’s ass a.k.a Chris Evans as Andy Barber, It and Knives Out ‘s brilliant actor Jaeden Martell as Jacob and I said: “Hell yeah!” we got the mind bending, twisty, surprising story we deserved. So I made a fast rereading to remember some intense parts and details of the book. By the way Michelle Dockery as Laurie and Oscar awarded J. K. Simmons as Billy Barber are killing it! And imitation games’ director Morten Tyldum orchestrated this symphonic adaptation! But trust me: even though the series has marvelous cast and the best director, the conclusion of the book was so much better! So read the book at first!!!

Let’s give you some introductions about the plot:

Andy Barber is experienced assistant district attorney of Newton, Massachusetts. His got 14 years old Ben Rifkin’s murder case, a classmate of his son Jacob. At first his number one person of interest was Leonard Patz, a local pedophile but as the investigation resumes, Andy finds out Ben and his son Jacob has some real issues, growing animosity between them. And after he does something not so ethical which may risk his carrier, he’s pulled off the case because his son’s fingerprints were found at Ben’s sweater! And Andy has a terrifying secret about his own past. He didn’t tell his wife what his father has done and where he is right now! There are so many secrets, so many revelations and twists. If you haven’t intrigued yet, at least give a chance to the series and binge watch them.

Oh! Unfortunately Apple TV releases only three episodes at first and keeps releasing the rest of it weekly. Damn it! At least I know how is going to end! That’s why I read the books at first). But I always try the book at first not to be disappointed because as always the books are always better than the series.

I’m a die-hard fan of court drama. I love crime thrillers and I’m an addict of WTF endings and this book gave me the whole package. So I highly recommend this creepy, disturbing, riveting, unputdownable, arm biter, soul shaker story!
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,955 reviews
December 4, 2013
Many things were a turn off for me in this legal thriller, like Andy Barber's propensity to hint at future developments as he narrates the past. To wit: "I think about that now, how I should have seen Laurie then, should have paid more attention...I was a fool...I know that now."

These multiple vague references combined with mysterious transcripts from another trial frustrated me. Then at the end, there's a "twist," followed by an abrupt ending where we have to guess what happens. And the story itself didn't pull me in as much as I thought it would.

I admit some issues are raised that would make for good discussion (how far would you go for your child? Is there really a murder gene?), but I've read better books of this genre.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jason.
137 reviews2,302 followers
January 29, 2015
I’ve always had a weakness for these mystery/crime thrillers—you know, the dragon tattoos and angels & demons of the world? I suppose I should be a little embarrassed by this but I’m not. They are my peanut butter and fluff.

Defending Jacob is some of the best fluff I’ve ever tasted. It is written by a former assistant district attorney from Massachusetts with a real knack for this type of storytelling—Jacob is perfectly paced with a tugging suspense that doesn’t abate until the final sentence. And it’s rife with all this legal mumbo jumbo so sometimes you forget it’s just fluff (don’t worry, though, it will remind you). By the end, my adrenaline levels were so high I needed to borrow my Mom’s blood pressure pills.

If you don’t want spoilers, you should probably stop reading now because I can only avoid them for so long. The thing I love about this book is its delve into the personal. The assistant DA’s teenage son is implicated in the murder of his classmate and so even though this is at some level a legal drama, it is also a family drama. To switch roles from lead prosecutor to paternal protectorate is obviously necessary for the ADA, but it does nothing to curb the tide of repercussions for him, his family, and the case. I was also riveted by my own fluctuation between empathy for a boy unjustly dealing with a murder rap and revulsion for him as doubts of his innocence grew.

Also, this book has wicked cool courtroom scenes.

Although the novel’s “present” occurs mostly during the aftermath of the murder and the murder trial itself, the story is interwoven with witness testimony from a grand jury trial that occurs six months later…which must clearly be unrelated to the events of the current murder trial, right? This seemingly unrelated testimony adds to the suspense of the book and its relevance is not revealed until the final chapter. And if you want to know what that relevance is, it turns out to be this: .
Profile Image for switterbug (Betsey).
830 reviews766 followers
December 30, 2011
This is as much a nuanced family drama, love story, and social inquisition as it is a murder/courtroom/legal thriller. If you can get past a few contrived plot points (this is where readers will divide), and engage with the narrator, whose reliability or unreliability is a puzzle to piece together, you will be satisfied with this warm yet dark story of a community and family unhinged by a violent crime. The author is a former DA who is skilled at informing the reader about the law and procedure without telegraphing it. The narrative is even, polished, and intelligently observant of a community in shock, a family shattered.

I have relatives in Newton, Massachusetts, where this thriller takes place. It is an upscale community of educated professionals, whose children graduate from tony high schools and go on to Ivy League colleges. A fourteen-year-old boy stabbed to death in the park is incomprehensible to this insulated and well-heeled population. As prosperous as it is, there is also a provincial air to it, as like-minded families have always experienced security and safety here, and there is an expectation and history of benevolence. Violence is rare.

Jacob, the fourteen-year-old son of First District Attorney Andy Barber, is accused of murdering his classmate, Ben Rifkin. In Massachusetts, fourteen-year-olds charged with first-degree murder are tried as adults. Barber narrates the story with depth and dread, exposing some family secrets along the way, which could impact the case, and creates increasing internal trauma for his wife, Laurie. Their marriage has always been an ongoing love story; they met as freshmen in college and have loved each other unfailingly through the years. This event mires them in vulnerability and heavy exposure to the media, placing them under a public microscope. Do they really know their son? How much can parents really get inside the soul of their children? And, no matter how strong a marriage seems, a blow like this can undermine what is truly a fragile trust.

Landay has a talent for metaphor and imagery, rendered beautifully in the elegiac narrative. Woven through the story, in the old-school typed transcript of a court reporter, is yet another narrative, of Barber as a witness before the grand jury. How this fits into the rest of the story is gradually disclosed, and its presence is both suspenseful and revealing. Landay's dialogue is crisply cinematic but organic to the characters. His flair for teen-speak is spot-on.

Jacob, who is largely inscrutable, is developed through the eyes of other characters--and at a slight remove, which adds to the suspense. Is he a cipher? A typical teenager? The unknown X factor of Jacob draws out the detective spirit of the reader. The character that really blossoms on the pages is Andy, who reveals, through his agony, more than his contained self-assessment. He is a tormented man trying to protect his family, but his tenacity and inexorable faith in his son may have dire consequences.

I read this book in two long sittings, and savored every page. Critically, it is probably a four-star (for its flaws), but personally, I greedily devoured every passage, removing my critical cap and capitulating to the subtle narrative.
Profile Image for Matt.
919 reviews28.3k followers
May 25, 2019
"The boy had been stabbed three times in the chest. One strike punctured the heart and would by itself have been fatal. The knife was driven straight in and jerked straight out again, one-two-three, like a bayonet. The weapon had a jagged edge, evidenced by shredding at the left edge of each wound and in the torn shirt fabric. The angle of entry suggested an attacker about...five foot ten or so, although the sloping ground in the park made this projection unreliable. The weapon had not been found. There were no defensive wounds: the victim's arms and hands were unmarked..."
- William Landay, Defending Jacob

Some time ago, I was standing in CVS Pharmacy getting a prescription for my daughter’s 10,000th earache (10,000 being a rough approximation). While I waited for the amoxicillin to be filled, I wandered over to the magazine rack to do some browsing. I instantly noticed something. The magazine/book rack sure has changed since I worked in a pharmacy in high school. Most of the magazines had motorcycles or abdomens on them. Most of the books had abdomens and corsets. There was very little to interest me, and much to make me self-conscious about my stomach.

In this mass of printed trash, William Landay’s Defending Jacob leapt out at me. Not because it looked awesome, but mainly because it didn't look terrible (and there were no heaving bosoms on the cover).

It’s been twenty years since I passed through my legal thriller phase (Grisham, Turrow, Diehl), and I really had no intention of recapturing that passing romance. But the pharmacy was slow, and it was either read Defending Jacob or compare Pedialyte flavors.

Defending Jacob is a great impulse purchase book. It belongs on newsstands or at airports or in dithering pharmacies. That’s because it has a premium hook: a prosecutor’s son has been charged in the brutal murder of a classmate. The prosecutor must leave his job and join in the defense. This is the kind of high concept plot that can be boiled down to a gripping tagline: Andy Barber used to put criminals in prison…Now he has to keep his son out of one. (That tagline is best read in a deeply baritone inner voice).

Defending Jacob is told in the first person by Andy Barber, an experienced assistant district attorney in suburban Massachusetts. His son, fourteen year-old Jacob is the one accused of stabbing a classmate to death and leaving his body in a park. The twist in the storytelling structure is that it opens at some point in the future after Jacob’s trial has been resolved. (Of course, the result of that trial is artfully hidden by the narrator, which is why I despise the first-person p.o.v. as a cheat).

In the first paragraph, Andy reveals that he is under grand jury investigation by his old office. This sets up parallel mysteries. First, is Jacob innocent? Second, why is Andy in front of the grand jury? I am bound to respect how quickly Landay sucked me in with this trick. One second I was waiting for amoxicillin; the next, I’m at the counter with a mass market paperback in one hand, and a bottle of Yellow Tail in the other. (Because waiting makes me thirsty).

It’s been almost twenty years since I closed the cover of Grisham’s The Runaway Jury and ended my brief affair with the legal thriller. As I plunged into Defending Jacob, I wondered-slash-worried about what tropes to expect. Vast conspiracies? Legal maneuvering that’s not allowed in actual courtrooms? An epic closing statement that gets the jury to decide with you, despite the overwhelming evidence of your client’s guilt?

To Landay’s credit, Defending Jacob has more on its mind that surprise witnesses and eleventh hour twists. Two-thirds of the book is spent outside the courtroom, much of it focused on the Barber family dynamics, as Andy tries to understand the most un-understandable creature on earth: a sullen teenager. There is an extended subplot dealing with Andy’s own family history, which leads to a philosophy-lite discussion over nature-verses-nurture and determinism verses free will. The content of this subplot is far from profound, but I appreciate the fact that the novel has more going on than meets the eye.

As a criminal defense attorney myself, I also appreciated Landay’s faithful rendering of the legal process. (Landay is a former district attorney, just like his main character…The author bio does not indicate whether his own son is an accused murderer). With a few exceptions, Jacob’s criminal trial unfolds like a real-life criminal trial. Andy Barber hires an actual defense attorney to defend Jacob (though he acts as second chair). The attorneys make proper objections. The judge adheres to the rules of evidence. Jacob’s trial – like most real trials – is not explosive. It is not shocking. There is no bombshell witness that one side or the other wasn’t aware of, because in real life, there is the discovery process and witness lists and the fact that the whole system is designed (rather imperfectly, of course) to avoid unfair surprises.

Most of the drama comes from the secondary impact of the trial on the Barber family. Defending Jacob is really more the portrait of a family under extreme duress than anything else. Andy is hell-bent on defending his son and is maniacally convinced that another suspect is the actual killer. His wife, Laurie, veers wildly from maternal protectiveness to horrified wariness that her son might actually have committed the crime. Jacob – well, Jacob is mostly a cipher. None of Landay’s characters, including Andy, are fully formed, but Jacob gets the least attention. (This is necessary to built tension, and also because teenagers are inherently uninteresting and not worth thinking about). Despite a rather forgettable dramatis personae, Landay does a good job detailing the toll that Jacob’s legal predicament – both the buildup and the trial itself – has on the Barber family. Probably the book’s most powerful scene is set in a grocery store, when the Barbers find themselves one aisle over from the family of the murdered schoolboy.

This isn’t a novel that is going to wow you with ornate prose or acute character observations. The writing – through Andy’s narration – is conversational. At its best, it is propulsive – storytelling that keeps you up at night saying “just one more page.” The dialogue is forgettable, either courtroom legalese or melodramatic family interactions. As I mentioned previously, Defending Jacob tries to tackle some ambitious themes. But when it comes down to it, the novel lives and dies on its story mechanics. Landay came up with a great idea; everything else comes down to execution. With this kind of book, if you stick the landing, it makes up for all other sins.

Defending Jacob is similar to all other legal potboilers in that we are led through a series of twists and turns to the surprise ending. In this book, due to its parallel storylines (Jacob’s trial and the grand jury of Andy), you get two twists for the price of one. Typically, I’m not the type of reader who enjoys these kinds of books – the ones that rely on a kicker. (This may be because I am terrible at guessing the ending of things, so no matter what, I’m usually surprised, even if I’m not supposed to be).

What I really liked about Defending Jacob is not the deviousness of the plot swerves. Rather, it was that Landay manages – in the final few pages – a climax that is not only surprising, but surprisingly powerful. It’s a conclusion that lifts Defending Jacob into a different plane. It’s not a great novel. But it’s not just a decent legal thriller either. It’s somewhere in the middle, which is pretty good for a mass market impulse buy at CVS, purchased while wearing sweatpants on a Tuesday night five minutes before the pharmacy closes.
Profile Image for Sandra .
1,142 reviews123 followers
January 18, 2013
I'm annoyed. As I said in one of my updates, this is an odd book, a psychological thriller with little understanding of psychology. It's written in the first person from the father's point of view. He was very annoying with his stubborn blocking of the truth from himself to his unemotional narration. If the author meant to convey a kind of underlying emotional tension, he failed miserably. The ending felt like a cheap shot, and I feel cheated.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
May 1, 2022
Defending Jacob, William Landay

For twenty years, Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney, in Newton, Massachusetts. He is investigating the murder of a 14-year-old boy, Ben Rifkin, who was a classmate of his son Jacob.

Andy initially suspects Leonard Patz, a known local pedophile, but soon, he is approached by Ben’s friend who hints at animosity between Ben and Jacob. Andy searches Jacob’s room and discovers a knife that fit the description of the murder weapon. Unsettled, Andy disposes of the knife.

The next day, he is suddenly pulled off the case when a fingerprint found inside Ben’s sweater matches that of Jacob. The finding shocks Andy and his wife, Laurie, but does not shake their belief in his innocence.

Jacob claims that he found Ben dead in the park and tried to revive him. While Jacob spends the night in jail, Andy reveals to Laurie that his father, Billy Barber, was a convicted murderer and rapist who was serving his life sentence in jail. At the request of Jacob’s lawyer, Andy reluctantly meets with Billy. He seems to be indifferent to Jacob’s situation. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز چهاردهم ماه مارس سال2019میلادی

عنوان: دفاع از جیکوب؛ نویسنده: ويليام لندى؛‌ مترجم: شيرين محمدی؛ ویراستار: مریم قدیمی؛ تهران، نشر کوله پشتی‏‫، سال1397؛ در495ص؛ شابک9786004611282؛ عنوان روی جلد: دفاع از جیکوب اگر فرزند شما متهم به قتل می‌شد چه می‌کردید؟ ‮‬‬موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده21م

در این داستان: «اَندی باربِر» بیست سال، دستیار دادستان منطقه بوده، او مردی محترم است؛ در کنار همسرش «لوری»، و پسرش «جیک»، خوشبخت است؛ شهر محل زندگی‌ «اَندی»، با رویدادن یک جنایت، در بهت فرو می‌رود، در پارکی پوشیده از برگ‌های پاییزی، پسری به قتل می‌رسد، و از همه بدتر اینکه، مظنون پسرِ خجالتی، عجیب و مرموزِ «اندی» است؛ «اندی» باور دارد، که «جیکوب» بی‌گناه است؛ همه ی والدین چنین حسی به فرزندان خویش دارند؛ اما افزایش فشارها، شواهد لعنتی، تردید، رابطه ی خانوادگیِ در حال فروپاشی، اهانت همسایه‌ ها، محاکمه، همه ی این عوامل، پایه‌ های خانواده ی «اندی» را، تهدید می‌کنند؛ امتحانی نهایی برای والدین: «تا کجا حاضر به حمایت از فرزندانتان هستید؟»؛ نوشتاری از نوعی امتحان عشق و ایمان است؛ امتحانی برای اینکه والدین بدانند چقدر فرزندانشان را می‌شناسند؛ این امتحان برای مردی با اراده‌ ای آهنین و رازی پنهان، حکم دشوارترین آزمون بی‌گناهی، یا گناهکاری، در نوع خود است

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 22/04/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 10/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for jessica.
2,535 reviews32.6k followers
September 5, 2020
i generally prefer my mystery/thrillers to focus on the law of ‘law and order’ (ie. police investigations, crime, etc). but every once in awhile, im fascinated by the order (ie. lawyers, trials, etc). and this definitely scratched my courtroom itch.

i found this to be a really compelling story - what do you do when your son becomes the primary suspect in a case you are currently investigating? im not a parent, but i really empathised with andy and had no difficulty understanding his impossible position. i enjoyed getting his perspective on the unfolding trial, how he knows exactly what the prosecution is doing (because hes a DA), but also the defence because its his son on trial. i will tell you what, i would not have wanted to be on that jury.

the only thing that prevented me from loving this more was the nonchalant misogyny used when describing or talking about female characters. the way its sown into the narrative definitely makes me think its more the author, rather than it being part of characterisation. so thats a little off-putting.

but overall, this is a great story for those who enjoy courtroom dramas.

4 stars
Profile Image for Michelle .
880 reviews1,283 followers
March 15, 2023

If you like legal thrillers / courtroom dramas then this is a MUST read. Over the course of two days I devoured this novel and could think of little else when having to set it down. I had heard over the years what a gem this book is and all those readers are right.

We all want to believe our children are fundamentally good and well adjusted. When the character of your child is called into question, accused of murder, what is a family to do?

I experienced every single emotion while reading this book so in turn I give it every single star! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thanks to Overdrive for the loan!
Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
874 reviews1,763 followers
September 16, 2019
this story has an open end, readers are free to draw their own conclusion about the murders and murderer but where this book really pulled me in was the court room drama and all that was said in favor of and against the murderer. Other than that I found it to be a mediocre read.
Profile Image for Trudi.
615 reviews1,418 followers
December 9, 2012

I'm trying to put my finger on what makes Defending Jacob such a compulsive read. Landay clearly has a killer storytelling instinct. The pacing of this novel is near perfect. He drops just enough clues, teases with just enough foreshadowing to keep the reader completely engrossed at all times. I started listening to this as an audiobook and finished it in print, not being able to turn the pages fast enough.

Defending Jacob is not a unique plot by any stretch. In fact, when I first heard about this book I couldn't help but think of the movie Before and After starring Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson, where their teen son Jacob (yep, he's Jacob too) is accused of murdering his girlfriend and it tears the family apart.

This book is much better than that movie though. Defending Jacob does a great job at looking at issues of guilt, innocence and culpability. It dissects the shortcomings of the legal system and the theatrics of courtroom proceedings without getting all preachy and legal mumbo-jumbo about it. It cuts to the heart of family dynamics and the parent-child relationship, poking at the difficult questions -- how far would you go to protect your child if they were innocent? guilty?

And there's the rub -- fourteen year old Jacob is standing trial for murder and we don't know if he's been falsely accused or not. There are things that point to his innocence, but also actions that point to his guilt. Even though it is a much denser read and told using a very different narrative voice, We Need to Talk About Kevin explores some of the same terrain of mental pathology and the genetic and external factors that combine to result in antisocial behaviors. For anyone who isn't sick of arguing the nature/nurture debate, Defending Jacob raises some interesting questions concerning the existence of a "murder gene" and whether violence can be passed down through the generations like eye color.

I liked that this book kept me guessing right up to the end. I loved that when it seemed to be wrapping up, there was one more sharp swerve to the left to come.
Profile Image for Dem.
1,186 reviews1,098 followers
March 1, 2022
Defending Jacob was a riveting and very enjoyable thriller one that will send chills up your spine.
My second read of this novel as just as compelling and unsettling as the first

A son accused of Murder and a family on trial.

Andy Barbers job is to put killers behind bars and when a boy from his son Jacob's school is found murdered Andy is under pressure to find his killer and prosecute.
When a crucial piece of evidence turns up linking Jacob to the murder the Barbers lives are turned upside down. This is every parent’s worst nightmare and Andy and Laurie will do anything to defend their child but while doing so learn that Jacob has his secrets.

This is exactly the sort of Novel I normally stay away from as as having a teenager I sometimes scare away from books like this as feel they make me overthink and thats not a good thing in some cases but this was a group read and therefore I joined in and I loved the book.
I loved the suspensful and twisty plot and I was captivated by authors style of writing, all the complex characters are cleverly and convincingly drawn. A terrific courtroom drama full of suspense and drama.

I am normally tight with my 5 stars but this book really made me sit up and think, exclaim out loud and once finished just couldnt put the story out of my head. Second time around the book was just as good as its been a few years since I read it and happy to say still a 5 star read for me.
February 18, 2017
I have had Defending Jacob on my TBR list for awhile and have been waiting for the right time to read it. This was the perfect time. I love when that happens.

I found Defending Jacob to be an original, gripping, complex, and an interesting crime thriller as well as emotional and a thought provoking family drama. What made this an interesting read for me was the combination of the legal side of the crime, the courtroom drama and the emotional family drama of a family in crisis after their son Jacob is accused of a violent crime.

The story is told from devoted, tormented and intelligent former first District Attorney Andy and father to Jacob who fights to save his son, who is after the truth but terrified of it and blinded by his unconditional love for his son. The drama intensifies as Jacob’s parents Andy and Laurie contrast each other with Andy’s determination who can see no wrong from his son and Laurie’s doubts, quilt, and willingness to see her son for what he could be.

What a stunning, shocking and unforgettable ending that left me stunned for a moment, I almost dropped my book.

Defending Jacob had me asking myself so many questions and I was stunned at the same time. I highly recommend for crime thrillers who like some family drama and for parents who love to be challenged with parenting questions.

Profile Image for Mariah Roze.
1,020 reviews923 followers
March 8, 2017
This book went through my newsfeed once, a really long time ago, and ever since then I have been wanting to read it. When I saw it at my library I snatched it up right away. This book did not disappoint!

What the book was about:
The book is told from the father's point of view, Andy Barber. He was an assistant district attorney that people loved and adored. He and his wife, Laurie, had an amazing relationship and one child, Jacob. Who was a teenager.
All of a sudden, there quiet, peaceful city had a stabbing to death of a young boy. Jacob was accused of the murder and his father believes he was innocent.
This book covered all aspects of the Jacob being possibly convicted: evidences, doubts, best friends going against you and so much more.

This book kept me on my toes till the very end! There were tons of twists, new information, etc. I highly suggest this to anyone that likes mysteries and/or books with twists.
March 21, 2017
4 stars! This was a highly suspenseful legal thriller/family drama. I was completely caught off guard by that ending (I love when that happens!).

The story revolves around solving the murder of fourteen year old Ben Rifkin who was stabbed three times and left dead in a local park. I flip-flopped countless times on my feelings toward the fourteen year old defendant, Jacob. The author, William Landay, did a great job of stringing the reader along pondering Jacob's innocence. I found it very intriguing that the story was narrated by Jacob's father, the former first District Attorney originally assigned to the murder case. Much of this book focuses on Jacob's parents and their feelings and struggles before, during and after their son's trial. I was questioning myself throughout the novel as to how I would have reacted as a parent.

My reason for taking away one star was that at times I felt the story dragged a little. I was completely captivated by the story initially, but found throughout the book there were times where I wasn't as interested and my mind wandered a tiny bit.

A few quotes that I loved:

"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"

"At some point as adults we cease to be our parents' children and we become our children's parents instead."

"....my wife read so constantly that she would hold a book in her left hand while she brushed her teeth with the right..." (Sound familiar to anyone????? Hah!)

Overall, I enjoyed this book and can see how it has such great reviews. It's a book that has been on my TBR list for years and I'm so glad I finally got around to reading it!
Profile Image for Robert.
Author 10 books420 followers
September 2, 2016
I hated Jacob and would have preferred to rub his cocksure attitude into the sand, knock him over the head with a shovel, and then bury him with said object about six feet under. He’s more emotionless void than passionate Picasso, and he feels absolutely no responsibility for his actions. That’s your typical teenager, at least on the latter, but not having a heart is not exactly what I strive toward every day of my life. And yet I ended up completely immersed in legalese and legal suspense.

William Landay has a knack for plotting novels, or at least based on the merits of DEFENDING JACOB. The spoon-fed trial details, the slipping between the present and the past almost effortlessly, the family history that comes out later like a pissed off reptile, and the emotional struggle to hold a family together even as it’s being torn apart all make for one glorious read. And yet he takes nearly 431 pages to answer one basic question: Is Jacob guilty or not? If you peel back all the emotional layers and struggles and doubts and accusations, that’s the bottom line. To put it mildly, he does it really, really well.

Andy Barber doesn’t want to answer this question. He doesn’t want to believe he could have made an error raising his son; instead, he chooses to focus on the goodness and righteousness that he sees every day in Jacob. He’ll do whatever it takes to defend his boy, even if it means lying or circumventing the truth or covering up details along the way. But then I’m the kind of person who thinks celebrities and other public figures should act in a professional, civic manner, and I hold myself to the same standards that I hold others to (often to be disappointed by said individuals somewhere along the way). None of that detracted from my overall reading experience, though. It just gave me a few additional thought molecules.

But I will say I didn’t like the ending. Even though it doesn’t change my rating, I would have been happier had the book ended about 30 pages sooner. Sure, it was an excellent twist, but it’s not one I was particularly happy about.

Cross-posted at Robert's Reads
Profile Image for Sandie.
1,071 reviews
February 15, 2012
William Landay's DEFENDING JACOB has received a lot of hype from its publishers and has been compared to Scott Turows "Presumed Innocent". Personally, this tale of the fourteen year old son of an Assistant D.A. accused of murdering a classmate put me more in mind of the William March book THE BAD SEED.

Several of Landay's characters lack flesh on their bones and the actions of some are downright unbelievable. The Jacob character must be based upon the Sphinx (he is that inscrutable) or perhaps he takes after his father Andy, who has managed to keep a secret from his wife for fourteen years. The wife,Laurie, seems to want to be the perfect mother and anything less than achieving this perfection means she is a failure and "to blame" for any of her sons problems. The actions of the victim as he was being murdered were implausible at best. Jacob's grandparents seem to be MIA(yet another item that was hard to believe). Then we have Andy's "friend" who is trying the case. His "go for the throat" tactics are not the actions of a friend and the political maneuvering in this sticky case is a stomach turning sight to behold. Of course, the story is being related by just one person whose outlook, we know, is skewed.

Those observations aside I will admit that this would be the type of selection that any book club group would jump on since it presents any number of avenues to explore and topics for discussion.....and perhaps that was the author's goal. Some of the questions that came to mind as I read were (1) What lengths would a parent go to in order to protect their child from a murder charge? (2) is there any scientific validity in "behavioural genetics" - - in other words are certain people born with a "murder gene" and therefore driven to commit certain crimes and therefore not truly responsible for their actions - - Nature versus nurture? (3) how biased is the media in reporting sensational stories and does their version shape public opinion ? (4) does placing a child in nursery school create children with RAD (reactive attachment disorder)? (5) What is the effect of social media on our society? While there was some food for thought presented, I am still less than enthusiastic about this book.

Final Analysis: The family secrets are over the top on the believability meter, for an intelligent man the father was obtuse when it came to his son, the courtroom drama is less than dramatic, the protagonists recounting of the case is about as exciting as reading a court transcript of a manufacturer being sued for soap that didn't get the laundry clean enough, and a majority of the characters are about a flat as the paper dolls I played with as a child. All I can say is, Mr. Landay definitely owes a big thank you to his publicist.
Profile Image for Oscar.
256 reviews93 followers
June 15, 2020
There's nothing much to say other than that this didn't worked out for me. Don't get me wrong this was not a badly written book or anything, it's just that I realized that I don't really like legal thrillers. My favourite part in this was the ending. I thought everything was already in the table before me then the twist!

ps. Chris Evans looks so good for someone who is supposed to be in his fifties!!
Profile Image for La-Lionne.
482 reviews780 followers
July 26, 2013
5 brilliant and heartbreaking stars :-(

This story isn't about proving Jacob is innocent or guilty. At least I didn't think so. For me this story was about fathers unconditional love for his son, no matter the outcome.

Andy Barber is a 51 year old DA. Has a wife who is a teacher and a 14 year old son, Jacob. Perfect little family. They are well known and respected in their community.
One day, he gets a call that a 14 year old boy has been found murdered in the park, not far from school, with 3 stab wounds in the chest. He takes on the case. But pretty soon it's clear that it might be conflict of interest. The police find some incriminating stuff against Jacob, and he becomes a suspect. What comes next, is absolutely heartbreaking. Andy stands down and gives up the case.

The whole story is told from fathers point of view. It's starts at the end and can feel a bit confusing. It's starts with him sitting on a witness stand, talking to a prosecutor. You get the feeling that something big went down, but you don't know what. You also don't know if Jacob has been found guilty or innocent, or what the hell happened. And that's what makes this story a complete page turner.

You get to see how their family handles the crisis. It hits hard, all of them, the father, the mother and the son. You see family falling apart. Their marriage went from:

At seventeen, I knew: my entire childhood had been just a prelude to this girl. I had never felt anything like it, and still haven't. I felt changed by her, physically. Not sexually, though we had sex everywhere, like minks, in the library stacks, in an empty classroom, her car, her family's beach house, even a cemetery.
"I am truly, deeply sorry. Truly."
"Now say you're wrong."
"Say you are wrong. Do you want it or not?"
"Hm. So, just to be clear: all I have to do is say I'm wrong and a beautiful woman will make passionate love to me."
"I didn't say passionate just regular."
"Okay, so: say I'm wrong and a beautiful woman will make love to me, completely without passion but with pretty good technique. That's the situation?"
"Pretty good technique?"
"Astounding technique."
"Yes, Counselor, that's the situation."
"You are staring."
"You are my wife. I'm allowed to stare."
"Is that the rule?"
"Yes. Stare, leer, ogle, anything I want. Trust me. I'm a lawyer."

"I did not share my feelings with Laurie, and I did not try to draw out hers either, because we were all coming apart. I discouraged any sort of frank emotional talk, and soon enough I stopped noticing my wife altogether."

It's very sad and frustrating to read. At the same time, it gets you thinking: would you act any different in their situation?

The trial is absolutely brutal. Theirs and Jacob's friends are called to testify. Secrets start coming out, evidence against Jacob is piling up... It leaves them thinking "What? How did I not know that?" They start doubting each other. But the most difficult part of all comes when parents start doubting their own kid's innocence. They discover that he is not an angel that they thought he was. I would go as far as calling him a little monster. At the same time, all those things doesn't prove he is guilty, because it doesn't have any direct relevance to the case. The conversations they have, at the end of the day, behind closed doors of their bedroom, is absolutely heartbreaking.
"Do you think he did it?"
"Are you crazy? He's our son!"

Every time a "dark" thought (doubt) sneaks up on him, he tries to push it away with a memory from Jacob's childhood.
A dim memory of Jake as a three- or four-year-old boy when we had a bedtime routine: I would ask, "Who loves Jacob?" and he would answer. "Daddy does." It was the last thing we said to each other before he went to sleep each night.
I knelt beside the bed and circled my arms around Jacob and laid my head on his. I remembered again: when he was a little kid (...)
Certainly he would never allow me to hold him this way if he was awake...

The amazing thing about this story, and what made this book so hard to put it down was little cliffhangers or hints left here and there.
Laury was neither stupid nor belligerent, and in the end she paid the price - but I'm getting ahead of the story.

Or when they went to the psychiatrist and started confessing all kinds of weird stuff. It left me with "WTF?"

But the story had a lot of bright moments too. It wasn't all sad. Andy was a tough cookie. He was trying to be strong for his wife and his son. He even managed to crack a joke or two, to cheer them up. He was very cool on the witness stand, he was schooling the prosecutor like nobodies business :-). He never once lost hope, not even when the sh!t hit the fan, over and over and over again.

The story had quite a few twists. Just when you thought the whole thing was over, something else happened. But the father never lost his cool. Not even at the end.
I haven't cried reading a book in a long time, but the very last sentence, at the end of the last chapter, completely broke my heart. I'm not gonna quote it, because it will spoil the story for those who are planning on reading.

Superbly written, engaging, compelling and heartbreaking story.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews33 followers
October 12, 2022
My reading list doesn't usually include a heavy diet of courtroom murder thrillers-(and family drama) ---
but I'm not sure why not--I enjoyed this book!

It was a page turning read ---but -- I was not 'just reading' (page after page) ---I spent much time 'contemplating' the many twists and turns.

As the reader --I was left to my imagination often (the manner in which the author wrote this absorbing novel).

I was never clear who 'really' had the upper hand (who was ahead during the days of the trial), --and how the Grand Jury was evaluating the murder case.
It was not until the novel was finished when I continued to spend 'more' time evaluating the testimony.

I thought this book was excellent. (I'd enjoy reading more books like this).

I'd say more: but I don't want to spoil anything.

Note: I haven't read any of the other reviews on this book yet! (maybe THEY spoiled things?/! lol)
Profile Image for Erin .
1,233 reviews1,144 followers
December 31, 2018
4.5 Stars!


Imagine being a parent whose son is accused of a heinous crime.

You want to believe him...


Defending Jacob is about Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber whose son Jacob is arrested for the murder of his classmate. Andy believes in his son's innocence 100%. Even when evidence starts to come out that makes little Jakey look guilty as Fuck.

I'm not going to give anything away but I will say that despite guessing the ending pretty early on, it still hit me like a ton of bricks. The last 8 pages were so powerful and heartbreaking.

Defending Jacob is a stunning novel that still has me wondering who the hell Jacob is?

If you like gripping family based legal thrillers, than please read Defending Jacob.
Profile Image for Blaine.
749 reviews613 followers
September 14, 2022
Damage hardens us all. It will harden you too, when it finds you—and it will find you.
It seems that most of the reviews of Defending Jacob compare it to Presumed Innocent. Well, this book falls a little short of that lofty mark, but there’s no shame in that.

The plot-telling device in Defending Jacob is interesting: it’s generally in the first person, told by the father, but occasionally, there are snippets of a court transcript from some undetermined later time. I could have done without so many “if only we had know then....” asides, but there’s no denying that they add a sense of foreboding that bad things are coming. And the story ends well. Some people will feel that the ending is forced, or gimmicky, but I thought it was believable and true to the characters. A pretty good read. Recommended.
Profile Image for James Thane.
Author 9 books6,915 followers
September 24, 2017
This legal/family thriller is strongly reminiscent of Presumed Innocent, the novel by Scott Turow that basically set the standard for every legal thriller that would follow.

In this case, the main protagonist is a long-time assistant D.A. named Andy Barber. He's second in command to a D.A. with higher political aspirations. The two are friends; Andy gets all the high profile cases because he's very good at what he does. Andy is married to the love of his life, Laurie, and they have a teenaged son named Jacob.

When one of jacob's classmates is stabbed to death in a local park while on his way to school, the entire community is shocked. Andy immediately takes charge of the case, determined to see that the killer is severely punished once the police find him or her. But then, Andy is stunned when his own son becomes the principal suspect in the killing after classmates reveal that Jacob had a knife much like the one the police have described as the missing murder weapon.

Andy insists, of course, that Jacob is innocent. He simply knows this intuitively because he loves his son. But Jacob is indicted and eventually tried for the crime. Andy's boss distances herself; that friendship is ended, and the case is given over to the number two prosecutor behind Andy, an ambitious, insecure prosecutor who is determined to make his bones by successfully prosecuting the case against Andy's son. Inevitably, all of this takes a toll on Andy and Laura's marriage, and so this is also a portrait of a family in crisis.

I had fairly mixed emotions about this book. I did not like any of the characters, who all seemed flat and one-dimensional. None of them was very sympathetic, and I found that I frankly didn't care much whether Jacob was convicted or not. I also didn't care about what might happen to his parents' marriage. Where the book came alive for me, though, was in the courtroom scenes. These are very well done, and once the trial finally began, I couldn't put the book down.

So a mixed review for me. I really enjoyed parts of this book a lot, but others troubled me. An okay read, but not a great one.
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,910 followers
February 7, 2012
There's a stanza from a Wendell Berry poem called "The Way of Pain" that applies to both of the fathers in this story -- the one whose son was murdered, and the one whose son was accused of murder.

"And then I slept, and dreamed
the life of my only son
was required of me, and I
must bring him to the edge
of pain, not knowing why.
I woke, and yet that pain
was true. It brought his life
to the full in me. I bore him
suffering, with love like the sun,
too bright, unsparing, whole."

That fierce love, that intensity and vulnerability called parenthood, is the essence of this family and courtroom drama.
Profile Image for JaHy☝Hold the Fairy Dust.
345 reviews580 followers
March 28, 2015
***5 " Unwavering " Stars**
Have you ever tried to write a review but no matter how hard you tried , you just couldn't articulate your thoughts properly ? I feel your pain.

I've written and deleted this review more times than I care to admit. Can you say scatter brain? I apologize in advance for this condensed rambling mess. . . . which will tell you nothing about the book itself, is the best I could come up with :-(
Thankfully, there are numerous fantastic reviews on GR. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE read them.

Defending Jacob is precisely the reason I love to read. All of my favorite books have something in common. Each novel has tugged at my grinchy heart strings in one way or another. This book is no exception. The array of emotions I felt while reading this story ranged from . . .

. . . . . . . In other words, I'm FAR from perfect. But, I'm not half bad at this mother & wife gig either.

. . I can live with that :-)

Friends, if you want to read a thought provoking story, filled with twist and turns, ONE CLICK THIS BOOK. You may end up being a better parent for it. MWAH!

** Special thanks to Angel for such a fantastic recommendation **

For more reviews, Free E-books and Giveaways
Profile Image for Mary Beth .
382 reviews1,665 followers
September 6, 2015
If you have been like me and have this on your Tbr like forever, I think you might want to read it. I don't know what took so long for me to read this. It was a big surprise. I loved this and its a really great book.

Its been awhile since I've read a good courtroom thriller and I will be reading more books by this author
It also has given me the urge to want to read more legal thrillers.

This book played very well on my emotions. It kept me in suspense, turning the pages till late at night.

Andy Barbour is the Assistant District Attorney.
He is called to a crime scene where Ben Rifkin, a 14 year old boy has been stabbed in a park. The police think they have a suspect, a pedophile who lives nearby and is known to go to the park often.
Then Andy's son Jacob, one of Bens classmates becomes a suspect. Ben was known to be a mean kid and a bully. He had been harassing Jacob. They think that this gives Jacob a motive to murder Ben. A lot of Jacob's classmates post messages on facebook suggesting he is guilty of the crime. They also commented that he showed his knife to his friends. When Andy finds the knife he quickly gets rid of it.

Laurie Jacob's Mom is half convinced that her son is guilty due to the fact that Andy's father and grandfather have been murderers. She fears that Jacob may have inherited, a gene associated with aggressive behaviors in makes.

If you like legal thrillers with twists and turns, suspense never ending this book is for you. I gave it 4 stars but feel that it was a little wordy and could of been a little shorter. Other than that I would of given it 5 stars.

Profile Image for Lisa.
753 reviews
February 23, 2016
Defending Jacob by William Landay is the most exciting unputdownable legal thriller i have read this year really enjoyed the storyline & the plot outstanding i finished it last night & i must say what a compelling ending i didn't see coming.

Andy Barbers job is to put killers behind bars but in a small town just outside of Boston where he lives is the kind of place parents go to bring up their children safely& violent crime is a rarity.

A boy from his son Jacob's school is found dead stabbed to death in the park the whole town reels in shock Andy comes under intense pressure to find the murderer & prosecute the perp.

At first the investigation is going nowhere until a crucial piece of evidence turns up linking Jacob to the murder which Andy & Laurie Jacob's mother does not believe . In a heartbeat Andy & Laurie's life is turned upside down. Not only is their son accused of his murder but suddenly it seems all Jacob's family is on trial.

The trial starts to have a big impact on Laurie & she changes her health goes down hill & suddenly she suffers mentally & Physically.

The events leading up to the finale of this book is something i wasn't expecting i was gobsmacked & thought about it for a while after finishing this.

highly recommended for legal thriller fans.

Profile Image for Erin.
2,960 reviews485 followers
October 7, 2017
Wowza! A gripping courtroom thriller that examines the lengths one husband and father will go to protect his family. Make no mistake the pace of the story is slow and the legal process is stretched out in an effort to keep us dangling for over 400 pages to reach a jaw dropping ending. "Defending Jacob" might have been written in 2012, but it has made its way to the top of my favorites list for 2017.
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