Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Friday, 11 January 2013

Defending Jacob - William Landay

‘In the end, every child leads his own life, largely out of his parents’ sight.’

This is a stunning, well-written and compelling read. Andrew Barber is the assistant district attorney investigating the murder of fourteen-year-old Ben Rifkin in Newton, a relatively nice community with low crime. When his own son Jacob becomes the prime suspect, Andy is taken off the case, and experiences the legal system from the other side with his son as the defendant; he is torn between wanting to know the truth and needing to protect his son.

‘Suspicion, once it started to corkscrew itself into my thoughts, made me experience everything twice: as questing prosecutor and as anxious father, one after the truth, the other terrified of it.’

Recounted by Andy in the first person throughout, and including excerpts from Grand Jury testimony, it’s a cleverly structured narrative in four parts, incorporating modern day social media by including facebook conversations. Threaded throughout the story there is also an intriguing ongoing encounter between Andy and his former colleague at the DA’s office, Neal Logiudice, who takes over the role of prosecutor.

It is Andy’s perspective we see throughout. His thoughts and opinions colour the view of events that we are reading. The story is both a tense thriller and also a family drama, bringing into play the murky past of Andy’s father and the two generations of males before him, leading to the discussion of a potential ‘murder gene’ being present.

I really enjoyed this cracking thriller; it kept me guessing, it has an excellent pace to the story all the way through, and a surprising and unexpected ending. It makes you think about how much any parent can really know their child, and about the limitations of the legal system. Recommended.


Originally reviewed for - thanks to them and to the publisher for a copy of this novel to read and review.

Published by Orion


  1. I have been reading good things about this book for a while - thanks for the great review - I have to push this one towards the top of my list!

    1. Thanks very much for commenting Wendy. I look forward to seeing what you think of this one too.

  2. I read this, too. Here's what I had to say about it.

    How can I adequately review DEFENDING JACOB by William Landay without spoiling the story? You need to have the story unfold just as the author writes it. I can promise you this: all those raves you’ve already read about this book are true. I’m adding it to my list of favorite books.

    Read it. See what happens when the 14-year-old son of a district attorney is accused of murder. Watch as the DA and you both discover more and more about Jacob. And, even though the story is narrated by the father, pay attention to the mother’s reactions.


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