Defending Jacob by William Landay

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A teenager is found stabbed to death next to a New England wooded bike trail. Andy Barber, Assistant District Attorney, gets the call and rushes to the scene of the crime. He’s all the more eager to catch the killer when he discovers that the victim is his son’s classmate. However, when Jacob is implicated as a possible suspect, Andy is taken off the case and he must consider the worse while trying to keep his family from imploding.

Defending Jacob is an interesting blend of thriller, mystery, courtroom drama, and family drama. I love it when stories defy genre. It often makes for more complex and interesting stories.

Consider the tensions between courtroom and family drama. When Andy has to choose between what he believes professionally and what he believes when it comes to his own family, the reader struggles with this choice as well. When it’s your son that’s accused, do you stand by him no matter what? Do you believe him when the evidence is stacked against him? Or do you believe in the system? Who do you owe your loyalty to? Your family? Or your community? These are powerful issues and Landay tackles them with skill. This book was gripping at times because of these moral issues.

That being said? This book had a few flaws. The story drags in places. Jacob is implicated pretty early on and waiting for the court case takes up the bulk of the narrative.

This time spent in limbo puts the family in a pressure cooker situation, but the turmoil is heavily focused on Andy’s inner battles or Andy’s perception of his family’s distress. Landay relies more on exploring how Andy feels about his son rather than interactions between them. When there isn’t much else going on plot-wise, this narrative focus feels claustrophobic.

Also, Jacob is a prick. He’s basically a lizard in teenage boy form.

Goodreads rating: 3 stars

I liked it and would recommend it, but with a few small caveats.

Defending Jacob by William Landay

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