Monday, March 12, 2012

Book Review: Defending Jacob by William Landay

The Publisher's Summary

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than 20 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 14-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.
Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, and as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own - between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.
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.

Here's a novel (Defending Jacob by William Landay) straight off the New York Times Bestseller's list, by an author I've never heard of before (turns out Defending Jacob is his third novel) with a promising premise though and enough positive ratings to roll a credit for the listen.

I enjoyed the progression of this novel as the case unfolds. Esentially as readers - or listeners - we're sitting in the courtroom as former district attorney Andy Barber recounts the events surrounding a mysterious death of a child in his community of Newton, MA. There's a bit of huh? As I tried to understand the tense of the recounting - he's on the stand and he seems to 'know' more than the facts of the case at various points in time, towards the end of the novel this is all explained though I won't get into the novel.

What we have here in many senses is a father - his career and life ruined by an accusation of guilt; a young boy seemingly wrongly accused of a horrific murder and of psychosis that runs deep - perhaps even as deep as genetics. The violence gene, how normal parents could unknowingly raise a monster; and a teenage psychopath who just seemed so normal on the surface. I won't offer any spoilers here - I would never ruin a novel or storyline for subsequent readers - but I will say that the last three hours of this novel were spectacular with not one, but two blows to the gut that I never saw coming.

There's a Chris Bohjalian quality to William Landay's writing (at least in this novel) - rich characters, thorough background research, a hometown feel of life in New England. There's that air of old secrets and suspense that builds so quietly and inperceptively.

When I finished Defending Jacob half-way down to Massachussetts for my birding and beach adventure, I actually picked up the phone and called two friends and told them to download this novel for their own rides to trials that weekend. I can't wait to hear what they think. Defending Jacob is right up there on my 'recommended read' list for 2012.

Defending Jacob was written by William Landay and published by Blackstone Audio with a release date of January 31st, 2012. Defending Jacob was narrated by Grover Gardner and has a runtime of 12 hours and 25 minutes.

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