Defending Jacob – William Landay

Your 14-year-old son is accused of murder. What do you do?

This is the tragedy that faces assistant district attorney Andy Barber and his son, Jacob, when Jacob’s classmate Ben Rifkin is found brutally murdered in the park. Andy has been an ADA for two decades, well-respected in the courtroom and happy at home…until now. When Jacob is accused of Ben’s murder, Andy’s life and his family begin to unravel.

As the Barber family awaits the trial, Andy remains convinced of Jacob’s innocence. Laurie, Andy’s wife, isn’t so sure. Jacob is as impenetrable as ever, as 14-year-old boys are wont to be. Shunned by their neighbors, the Barbers sequester themselves in their home, away from the prying eyes of the media

I’d had this on my Amazon wish list for a while, and splurged on it recently when I had to buy something else (we have Prime now, yay!). I’m not really into the legal thriller genre, but I’d heard good things about Defending Jacob. While it’s not high literature, it certainly kept my attention and I did really enjoy it.

I do have to say, though, that it probably could have been about 50 pages shorter, if not even shorter than that. At 421 pages, it was very long and quite repetitive in some places; there were at least five separate mentions of how Laurie was becoming so gaunt and withdrawn. It was almost as if he copied and pasted the same paragraph when he couldn’t think of what else to write. And maybe it was intentional, but the writing was…not the best? I mean, it was written in the first person from Andy’s perspective, as if Andy had actually written it (he apologizes in a few places for language, lengthiness, etc.). So the impression is that the novel is written unprofessionally, which makes sense, but…meh. I can’t decide how I feel about it.

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Either way, I finished it in only three days (really it should have been two days, but my in-laws were visiting so I had to leave the last 10-15 pages for a time they weren’t around). It did feel rather drawn out at times, like I mentioned above, but that just made me want to finish it faster. (And it also made me skim a bit.) The format was cool—mostly regular novel-style interspersed with a grand jury transcript. You don’t actually find out for sure what the grand jury transcript is for until the end, which, by the way, is a pretty great ending. Good twists. Yes, that’s twists, as in multiple.

I would tentatively recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in a legal thriller, and who doesn’t mind some verbosity. I did really like this book, but I don’t think it’s for everyone.

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