Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Defending Jacob

Defending Jacob by William Landay 
Read:  2012

There aren't many thrillers of any kind that can catch me unaware.    I'm the girl who knows "whodunnit" way too early.  This is partially because way too many mystery/thriller books follow the exact same template. Even the first Harry Potter book was written following this formula.  Who knew Snape wasn't our bad guy from the moment we met him?  That would be this girl!  Landay has cracked that mold and headed in an entirely new direction. 

Adam Barber has been Assistant District Attorney in his town for decades, and probably would have continued if not for the grisly murder which occurred on his watch, a murder he investigates and in which his son becomes the prime suspect. 

Jacob Barber is a quiet kid, possibly a bullying victim, with few friends and a penchant for violent prose.  But could he have committed the grisly murder of a classmate?  The rest of the students at school think he did.  The father who loves him and is convinced that he knows him can not believe it and will not believe it.  Is he right? The Barber's suburban community is aghast and they are a close knit enough group that everyone has an opinion and is talking. This proves to be a great strain on the family, but that comes as no surprise.  

What makes this book stand out is that there are stories in the story.  The book begins with Andy Barber testifying to a grand jury with the questioning being led by a former colleague, who Andy has little respect for and doesn't like very much. In fact, when the new ADA strikes a point and makes his case effectively, we learn that Andy taught him his best techniques.  We wonder, as the book continues, what can possibly have brought Andy before the grand jury.  As each piece of the puzzle is unveiled and either added to the unresolved questions, or put in its place in the big picture, that question keeps coming back.  At the end of this story, that question, that final piece of the puzzle is all that's left to answer and the answer may shock you.

I enjoyed this book.  I liked Andy Barber and spent time considering the situation this man is in. Between his roles as investigator, father, husband and resident of Newton, Massachusetts, he's got so much riding on finding out what really happened.  I found this to be masterful story telling. Every side of the story is there to be viewed and understood, along with the biases, needs and wants of each of the people involved.  How would parents feel and act, or react if their child was accused of a crime like this?  Landay's narrative is powerful, his story telling taut and believable.  I gave it four stars on goodreads and I will definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a really well written courtroom thriller.

2 comments:

Catherine Healey said...

One of my book clubs just finished reading Defending Jacob. It was a real page turner!

JoanneMarie Faust said...

It certainly was, Catherine. I liked that it wasn't just a court room thriller, but really looked into the heart of a family in crisis.