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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “A legal thriller that’s comparable to classics such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent . . . tragic and shocking.”—Associated Press

NOW AN EMMY-NOMINATED ORIGINAL STREAMING SERIES • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Entertainment Weekly • Boston Globe • Kansas City Star

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney for two decades. He is respected. Admired in the courtroom. Happy at home with the loves of his life: his wife, Laurie, and their teenage son, Jacob. Then Andy’s quiet suburb is stunned by a shocking crime: a young boy stabbed to death in a leafy park. And an even greater shock: The accused is Andy’s own son—shy, awkward, mysterious Jacob.

Andy believes in Jacob’s innocence. Any parent would. But the pressure mounts. Damning evidence. Doubt. A faltering marriage. The neighbors’ contempt. A murder trial that threatens to obliterate Andy’s family. It is the ultimate test for any parent: How far would you go to protect your child? It is a test of devotion. A test of how well a parent can know a child. For Andy Barber, a man with an iron will and a dark secret, it is a test of guilt and innocence in the deepest sense.

How far would  you go?

Praise for Defending Jacob

“A novel like this comes along maybe once a decade . . . a tour de force, a full-blooded legal thriller about a murder trial and the way it shatters a family. With its relentless suspense, its mesmerizing prose, and a shocking twist at the end, it’s every bit as good as Scott Turow’s great  Presumed Innocent. But it’s also something more: an indelible domestic drama that calls to mind  Ordinary People and  We Need to Talk About Kevin. A spellbinding and unforgettable literary crime novel.” —Joseph Finder

Defending Jacob is smart, sophisticated, and suspenseful—capturing both the complexity and stunning fragility of family life.” —Lee Child

“Powerful . . . leaves you gasping breathlessly at each shocking revelation.” —Lisa Gardner

“Disturbing, complex, and gripping,  Defending Jacob is impossible to put down. William Landay is a stunning talent.” —Carla Neggers

“Riveting, suspenseful, and emotionally searing.” —Linwood Barclay

Review

“Ingenious . . . Nothing is predictable. All bets are off.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“A legal thriller that’s comparable to classics such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent . . . Tragic and shocking, Defending Jacob is sure to generate buzz.”—Associated Press

“Stunning . . . a novel that comes to you out of the blue and manages to keep you reading feverishly until the whole thing is completed.”—The Huffington Post

“Gripping . . . [Landay] keeps you turning the pages through the shocking gut-punch of an ending.”Entertainment Weekly

“Gripping, emotional murder saga . . . The shocking ending will have readers pulling up their bedcovers to ward off the haunting chill.”People

“The hype is justified. . . . Exceptionally serious, suspenseful, engrossing.”The Washington Post

“Not since Scott Turow has a crime thriller—any thriller, though this too happens to be a literary legal thriller—shaken me by the throat like this. It’s a stunning, shocking, emotionally harrowing ride in which the reader is plunged into a riveting but terrible murder trial and the equally heartbreaking implosion of a loving family.”Daily Mail

“Even with unexpected twists and turns, the two narratives interlock like the teeth of a zipper, building to a tough and unflinching finale. This novel has major motion picture written all over it.”The Boston Globe

“[William] Landay does the seemingly impossible by coming up with a new wrinkle in the crowded subgenre of courtroom thrillers. . . . It’s inevitable that he’ll be compared to Scott Turow, but this novel succeeds on its own merits.”Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

William Landay is the author of The Strangler, a Los Angeles Times Favorite Crime Book of the Year, and Mission Flats, winner of the Creasey Memorial Dagger Award for Best First Crime Novel and a Barry Award nominee. A former district attorney who holds degrees from Yale and Boston College Law School, Landay lives in Boston, where he is at work on his next novel of suspense.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1
In the Grand Jury  
 
Mr. Logiudice:     State your name, please.  
Witness:     Andrew Barber.  
Mr. Logiudice:     What do you do for work, Mr. Barber?  
Witness:  I was an assistant district attorney in this county for 22 years.  
Mr. Logiudice:     "Was." What do you do for work now?  
Witness:  I suppose you''d say I''m unemployed.  
 
In April 2008, Neal Logiudice finally subpoenaed me to appear before the grand jury. By then it was too late. Too late for his case, certainly, but also too late for Logiudice. His reputation was already damaged beyond repair, and his career along with it. A prosecutor can limp along with a damaged reputation for a while, but his colleagues will watch him like wolves and eventually he will be forced out, for the good of the pack. I have seen it many times: an ADA is irreplaceable one day, forgotten the next.  

I have always had a soft spot for Neal Logiudice (pronounced la-JOO-dis). He came to the DA''s office a dozen years before this, right out of law school. He was twenty-nine then, short, with thinning hair and a little potbelly. His mouth was overstuffed with teeth; he had to force it shut, like a full suitcase, which left him with a sour, pucker-mouthed expression. I used to get after him not to make this face in front of juries-nobody likes a scold-but he did it unconsciously. He would get up in front of the jury box shaking his head and pursing his lips like a schoolmarm or a priest, and in every juror there stirred a secret desire to vote against him. Inside the office, Logiudice was a bit of an operator and a kiss-ass. He got a lot of teasing. Other ADAs tooled on him endlessly, but he got it from everyone, even people who worked with the office at arm''s length-cops, clerks, secretaries, people who did not usually make their contempt for a prosecutor quite so obvious. They called him Milhouse, after a dweeby character on The Simpsons, and they came up with a thousand variations on his name: LoFoolish, LoDoofus, Sid Vicious, Judicious, on and on. But to me, Logiudice was okay. He was just innocent. With the best intentions, he smashed people''s lives and never lost a minute of sleep over it. He only went after bad guys, after all. That is the Prosecutor''s Fallacy-They are bad guys because I am prosecuting them-and Logiudice was not the first to be fooled by it, so I forgave him for being righteous. I even liked him. I rooted for him precisely because of his oddities, the unpronounceable name, the snaggled teeth-which any of his peers would have had straightened with expensive braces, paid for by Mummy and Daddy-even his naked ambition. I saw something in the guy. An air of sturdiness in the way he bore up under so much rejection, how he just took it and took it. He was obviously a working-class kid determined to get for himself what so many others had simply been handed. In that way, and only in that way, I suppose, he was just like me.  

Now, a dozen years after he arrived in the office, despite all his quirks, he had made it, or nearly made it. Neal Logiudice was First Assistant, the number two man in the Middlesex District Attorney''s Office, the DA''s right hand and chief trial attorney. He took over the job from me-this kid who once said to me, "Andy, you''re exactly what I want to be someday." I should have seen it coming.   In the grand jury room that morning, the jurors were in a sullen, defeated mood. They sat, thirty-odd men and women who had not been clever enough to find a way out of serving, all crammed into those school chairs with teardrop-shaped desks for chair arms. They understood their jobs well enough by now. Grand juries serve for months, and they figure out pretty quickly what the gig is all about: accuse, point your finger, name the wicked one.
 
A grand jury proceeding is not a trial. There is no judge in the room and no defense lawyer. The prosecutor runs the show. It is an investigation and in theory a check on the prosecutor''s power, since the grand jury decides whether the prosecutor has enough evidence to haul a suspect into court for trial. If there is enough evidence, the grand jury grants the prosecutor an indictment, his ticket to Superior Court. If not, they return a "no bill" and the case is over before it begins. In practice, no bills are rare. Most grand juries indict. Why not? They only see one side of the case.  
But in this case, I suspect the jurors knew Logiudice did not have a case. Not today. The truth was not going to be found, not with evidence this stale and tainted, not after everything that had happened. It had been over a year already-over twelve months since the body of a fourteen-year-old boy was found in the woods with three stab wounds arranged in a line across the chest as if he''d been forked with a trident. But it was not the time, so much. It was everything else. Too late, and the grand jury knew it.  

I knew it too.  

Only Logiudice was undeterred. He pursed his lips in that odd way of his. He reviewed his notes on a yellow legal pad, considered his next question. He was doing just what I''d taught him. The voice in his head was mine: Never mind how weak your case is. Stick to the system. Play the game the same way it''s been played the last five-hundred-odd years, use the same gutter tactic that has always governed cross-examination-lure, trap, fuck.  

He said, "Do you recall when you first heard about the Rifkin boy''s murder?"  
"Yes."  
"Describe it."  
"I got a call, I think, first from CPAC-that''s thes tate police. Then two more came in right away, one from the Newton police, one from the duty DA. I may have the order wrong, but basically the phone started ringing off the hook."  
"When was this?"  
"Thursday, April 12, 2007, around nine A.M., right after the body was discovered."  
"Why were you called?"  
"I was the First Assistant. I was notified of every murder in the county. It was standard procedure."  
"But you did not keep every case, did you? You did not personally investigate and try every homicide that came in?"  
"No, of course not. I didn''t have that kind of time.  I kept very few homicides. Most I assigned to other ADAs."  
"But this one you kept."  
"Yes."  
"Did you decide immediately that you were going to keep it for yourself, or did you only decide that later?"  
"I decided almost immediately."  
"Why? Why did you want this case in particular?"  
"I had an understanding with the district attorney, Lynn Canavan: certain cases I would try personally."  
"What sort of cases?"  
"High-priority cases."  
"Why you?"  
"I was the senior trial lawyer in the office. She wanted to be sure that important cases were handled properly."  
"Who decided if a case was high priority?"  
"Me, in the first instance. In consultation with the district attorney, of course, but things tend to move pretty fast at the beginning. There isn''t usually time for a meeting."  
"So you decided the Rifkin murder was a high-priority case?"  
"Of course."  
"Why?"  
"Because it involved the murder of a child. I think we also had an idea it might blow up, catch the media''s attention. It was that kind of case. It happened in a wealthy town, with a wealthy victim. We''d already had a few cases like that. At the beginning we did not know exactly what it was, either. In some ways it looked like a schoolhouse killing, a Columbine thing. Basically, we didn''t know what the hell it was, but it smelled like a big case. If it had turned out to be a smaller thing, I would have passed it off later, but in those first few hours I had to be sure everything was done right."  
"Did you inform the district attorney that you had a conflict of interest?"  
"No."  
"Why not?"  
"Because I didn''t have one."  
"Wasn''t your son, Jacob, a classmate of the dead boy?"  
"Yes, but I didn''t know the victim. Jacob didn''t know him either, as far as I was aware. I''d never even heard the dead boy''s name."  
"You did not know the kid. All right. But you did know that he and your son were in the same grade at the same middle school in the same town?"  
"Yes."  
"And you still didn''t think you were conflicted out?  You didn''t think your objectivity might be called into question?"  
"No. Of course not."  
"Even in hindsight? You insist, you- Even in hindsight, you still don''t feel the circumstances gave even the appearance of a conflict?"  
"No, there was nothing improper about it. There was nothing even unusual about it. The fact that I lived in the town where the murder happened? That was a good thing. In smaller counties, the prosecutor often lives in the community where a crime happens, he often knows the people affected by it. So what? So he wants to catch the murderer even more? That''s not a conflict of interest. Look, the bottom line is, I have a conflict with all murderers. That''s my job. This was a horrible, horrible crime; it was my job to do something about it. I was determined to do just that."  
"Okay." Logiudice lowered his eyes to his pad. No sense attacking the witness so early in his testimony. He would come back to this point later in the day, no doubt, when I was tired. For now, best to keep the temperature down.  
"You understand your Fifth Amendment rights?"  
"Of course."  
"And you have waived them?"  
"Apparently. I''m here. I''m talking."  
Titters from the grand jury.  
Logiudice laid down his pad, and with it he seemed to set aside his game plan for a moment. "Mr. Barber-Andy-could I just ask you something: why not invoke them? Why not remain silent?" The next sentence he left unsaid: That''s what I would do.  
I thought for a moment that this was a tactic, a bit of play acting. But Logiudice seemed to mean it. He was worried I was up to something. He did not want to be tricked, to look like a fool.  
I said, "I have no desire to remain silent. I want the truth to come out."  
"No matter what?"  
"I believe in the system, same as you, same as everyone here."  

Now, this was not exactly true. I do not believe in the court system, at least I do not think it is especially good at finding the truth. No lawyer does. We have all seen too many mistakes, too many bad results. A jury verdict is just a guess-a well-intentioned guess, generally, but you simply cannot tell fact from fiction by taking a vote. And yet, despite all that, I do believe in the power of the ritual. I believe in the religious symbolism, the black robes, the marble-columned courthouses like Greek temples. When we hold a trial, we are saying a mass. We are praying together to do what is right and to be protected from danger, and that is worth doing whether or not our prayers are actually heard.  

Of course, Logiudice did not go in for that sort of solemn bullshit. He lived in the lawyer''s binary world, guilty or not guilty, and he was determined to keep me pinned there.  

"You believe in the system, do you?" he sniffed. "All right, Andy, let''s get back to it, then. We''ll let the system do its work." He gave the jury a knowing, smart-ass look.  

Attaboy, Neal. Don''t let the witness jump into bed with the jury-you jump into bed with the jury. Jump in there and snuggle right up beside them under the blanket and leave the witness out in the cold. I smirked. I would have stood up and applauded if I''d been allowed to, because I taught him to do precisely this. Why deny myself a little fatherly pride? I must not have been all bad-I turned Neal Logiudice into a half-decent lawyer, after all.  

"So go on already," I said, nuzzling the jury''s neck. "Stop screwing around and get on with it, Neal."  

He gave me a look, then picked up his yellow pad again and scanned it, looking for his place. I could practically read the thought spelled out across his forehead: Lure, trap, fuck. "Okay," he said, "let''s pick it up at the aftermath of the murder."  
 
2 |
Our Crowd  
April 2007: twelve months earlier.  
 
When the Rifkins opened their home for the shiva, the Jewish period of mourning, it seemed the whole town came. The family would not be allowed to mourn in private. The boy''s murder was a public event; the grieving would be as well. The house was so full that when the murmur of conversation occasionally swelled, the whole thing began to feel awkwardly like a party, until the crowd lowered its voice as one, as if an invisible volume knob were being turned.  
I made apologetic faces as I moved through this crowd, repeating "Excuse me," turning this way and that to shuffle by.  

People stared with curious expressions. Someone said, "That''s him, that''s Andy Barber," but I did not stop. We were four days past the murder now, and everyone knew I was handling the case. They wanted to ask about it, naturally, about suspects and clues and all that, but they did not dare. For the moment, the details of the investigation did not matter, only the raw fact that an innocent kid was dead.  

Murdered! The news sucker-punched them. Newton had no crime to speak of. What the locals knew about violence necessarily came from news reports and TV shows. They had supposed that violent crime was limited to the city, to an underclass of urban hillbillies. They were wrong about that, of course, but they were not fools and they would not have been so shocked by the murder of an adult. What made the Rifkin murder so profane was that it involved one of the town''s children. It was a violation of Newton''s self-image. For awhile a sign had stood in Newton Centre declaring the place "A Community of Families, A Family of Communities," and you often heard it repeated that Newton was "a good place to raise kids." Which indeed it was. It brimmed with test-prep centers and after-school tutors, karate dojos and Saturday soccer leagues. The town''s young parents especially prized this idea of Newton as a child''s paradise. Many of them had left the hip, sophisticated city to move here. They had accepted massive expenses, stultifying monotony, and the queasy disappointment of settling for a conventional life. To these ambivalent residents, the whole suburban project made sense only because it was "a good place to raise kids." They had staked everything on it.

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Top reviews from the United States

D. Eppenstein
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
For me that means the book was good. I am a retired criminal defense attorney
Reviewed in the United States on July 7, 2015
I really regret having read this book. It was upsetting and awakened memories I am unwilling to relive. For me that means the book was good. I am a retired criminal defense attorney. The last ten years of my career were spent exclusively defending murder and death... See more
I really regret having read this book. It was upsetting and awakened memories I am unwilling to relive. For me that means the book was good. I am a retired criminal defense attorney. The last ten years of my career were spent exclusively defending murder and death penalty murder cases. I go out of my way to avoid reading crime novels or watching crime shows or movies because they are so removed from any semblance of reality as to be laughable. I am especially disturbed by that genre of fiction that treats murder as a parlor game. Murder is ugly and never entertaining. I decided to read this book after reading the review of another criminal lawyer that is a GR friend. I found this book to be mercifully short on courtroom drama and case investigation and preparation but nevertheless accurate in most respects. Where this book shines is in illustrating the devastation the accusation of a serious crime can visit upon an average middle class family. While I was less than pleased with the theatrical ending the behavior of the family members and their friends and neighbors was spot-on accurate as was the behavior of the prosecuting attorney. In sum I''d say this was probably the most accurately depicted crime novel I''ve ever read excepting, of course, the device employed as an ending but, like I said, I don''t read many crime novels. Now I need to find a book to help me forget what this book has me remembering.
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Becki Rizzuti
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Psychologically Complex, Well Paced, Tied Up in a Bow
Reviewed in the United States on July 28, 2018
Oh. My. God. You know, I nearly abandoned this book based purely on the first couple of pages of the book because I disliked the court transcript formatting for those pages. I thought it was difficult to follow and lacked depth (which ought to be obvious). If I''d... See more
Oh. My. God.

You know, I nearly abandoned this book based purely on the first couple of pages of the book because I disliked the court transcript formatting for those pages. I thought it was difficult to follow and lacked depth (which ought to be obvious). If I''d not pressed on, I''d have missed one of the most entertaining reads I''ve enjoyed in some time.

Ironically, these first couple of pages, and the way they tie the entire story together and wrap it up in a tidy bow, are precisely the reason this book made it onto my coveted list of five star books. (Alright, alright. Maybe not COVETED. I''m a nobody, after all.)

I realize I''m fangirling, but this book is BRILLIANT. It''s not just the way the author ties one end of the book to the other so skillfully. It''s not just the brilliant pacing which rarely ("never" is too strong a word for me) drags. It''s not just the fact that every move the author made throughout this novel was so deliberately planned (and, no doubt, well-revised). Amazingly, it''s not what this book made me feel.

Oh no. It''s what this book DIDN''T make me feel.

Truly and astonishingly perhaps the MOST psychological book I''ve ever read, brilliantly executed, and outstanding in its construction.

Oh yes. I loved this book.

But that''s not what you REALLY want to know. You want to know if YOU will love this book.

I like to give my readers information about the book -- a warning label, if you will, of things about the book which may not appeal to some readers. When I first started writing, I couldn''t think of a single thing I''d want you to know before you invest your time (and potentially your money) in this novel. Fortunately, the more I wrote, the more cognizant I became of some of the flaws in this novel.

So here''s what you need to know before you purchase, or borrow this book.

First, Landay writes in huge blocks of text.

See how short my paragraphs are here on my blog? I try to keep them a length which is easily readable for most people. We tolerance is lower, of course, than print tolerance, but I try to keep my paragraphs at a length readers can easily scan without losing any significant amount of information. A paragraph is generally about five sentences long, often four lines long in text. This paragraph is five sentences long.

Landay''s paragraphs sometimes span the length of AN ENTIRE PAGE of text. This makes it more difficult for the reader to scan the paragraph for relevant information, slows down speed readers, and can make even a standard reader (one reading every word at a normal pace) frustrated because its point seems interminable. I consider myself a "standard reader" and Landay''s paragraphs slowed me down considerably.

This is never more relevant than at the end of the novel.

Because following the climax, Landay continues with the story.

Now if you''re like me, you like something after the climax. You''re probably not looking for much more story, just something to conclude what you''ve been reading and to wrap up the book. Some books are terrible about ending immediately after the climax -- what we''d call a "cliffhanger," sometimes without any intention of continuing as a series. So I appreciate the effort. Really, I do.

The problem is the massive paragraphs. They initially felt superfluous, as though they intended only to tell the reader the general sense of what happened after the climactic moment. I asked myself several times, while reading page-long paragraphs, why the author had included this information. (I''m glad I kept reading, because the story actually continued, but suffice it to say this was frustrating, and somewhat tedious.)

I know what you''re probably thinking: "Well good! There''s something to wrap the story up!" And if you are a die hard for post-climax conclusions, this will definitely be helpful for you.

But this post-climax storyline goes on for several chapters. I''ll be the first to admit it''s important, and it seems the author had it in mind the entire time, but it''s poorly paced. A quick-moving story takes a turn for slow and drawn out. And maybe -- just MAYBE -- this was information I didn''t WANT to have.

Not that it destroys the story, because it doesn''t. But I''d have been fine with a bit more left to the imagination. (Intriguingly, one of the one-star reviews on Amazon argues that the entire story leaves TOO MUCH to the imagination!)

In another note about the ending, it''s similar to the ending of another book I''ve read. Not that it''s predictable, because HOLY MOLY I DIDN''T SEE THAT COMING! But the resemblance struck me as odd and jarring. I didn''t like the ending of THAT book, but in this case I felt like it worked. (No, I''m not going to tell you which book, in case you''ve read it and can then compare notes.)

Finally, I want you to know before committing to read this book that the characters aren''t likable.

I always find myself wondering at the fact this is such a BIG deal for so many reviewers. "I didn''t like the characters." Really? Do you like EVERYBODY you come into contact with on a day to day basis? Now granted, even the worst monsters in history have had FRIENDS who loved them in spite of their flaws, but that''s beside the point.

Some people just aren''t likable, and Andy, Laurie, and Jacob Barber are on the list of unlikable people in the world. (So, as it happens, are Derek Yoo, and Paul Duffy. You''re going to despise Ben Rifkin and Neal Loguidice by the time it''s done as well (though that is less veiled than the aforementioned characters).

There''s good in each of them. Well, MOST of them, anyway. But I don''t think you''re supposed to like them. No, not even Andy, the narrative character, Jacob''s father. Not even sweet, sympathetic Laurie. While not caricatures, I do believe these characters were made intentionally exactly the way they are. So if you''re reading this book, and you pause to think to yourself "something seems to be missing from this characterization," try to consider some people have something missing from their personality and that''s just the way the author intended it to be.

Oh yes, I loved this book. LOVED this book. It was amazing! I''m not finding many negative reviews I don''t feel missed the point of the novel. I think you''ll enjoy it too, if you can live with the aforementioned flaws.
64 people found this helpful
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D. West
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Nature vs. Nurture
Reviewed in the United States on October 4, 2018
This is a haunting story that will stay with you long after you read the final chapter. It is the ultimate look at nature vs. nurture in the realm of murder and mayhem. While the title was a bit distracting, as I expected this to be purely a courtroom drama, this... See more
This is a haunting story that will stay with you long after you read the final chapter. It is the ultimate look at nature vs. nurture in the realm of murder and mayhem.

While the title was a bit distracting, as I expected this to be purely a courtroom drama, this book was astonishing on many levels and will leave you reeling. While the effect of our physical construction on our behavior and character is a revolutionary idea, a completely new way to think about ourselves, perhaps we’ve always unconsciously done this and science has now put a fine point on it.

Is it possible to be hard wired to murder or commit other crimes through genetic material handed down through our ancestral DNA? Can our DNA predispose us to violence as we’ve believed it has to disease?

This novel is so intense that I can hardly imagine a reader who is not affected by the message and horrified by the ending. It is hard to think there will be a reader who is not somehow moved by this novel. It should strike a nerve in every reader, regardless of where they fall out on the message. Highly recommended. I will be reading a lot more of William Landay.
35 people found this helpful
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R. S. McGowan
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Terrible book - spoiler alert
Reviewed in the United States on October 7, 2019
Other reviews said that there are many twists, others claim a great ending. The evidence against Jacob is damning so we have to assume that he is cleared in the last few pages. The problem is that he is so unlikable you don''t care whether he did IT or not. His dad isn''t... See more
Other reviews said that there are many twists, others claim a great ending. The evidence against Jacob is damning so we have to assume that he is cleared in the last few pages. The problem is that he is so unlikable you don''t care whether he did IT or not. His dad isn''t particularly likable and stays quite busy destroying evidence, the mom is OK.
One of Jacob''s friends lays out the case against Jacob quite clearly and dispassionately. My guess is that the friend is actually describing events that happened to him and that he is the murderer.
If you like child molestation and torture porn, it''s here. I didn''t finish.
19 people found this helpful
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Avalon
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Do you love a great ending?
Reviewed in the United States on September 28, 2017
I will start by saying that courtroom dramas are not normally my preferred genre. However, thousands of positive reviews and my Mom''s personal recommendation cannot be ignored forever. I''m so glad that I gave this one a try! I was immediately sucked in by the eloquent... See more
I will start by saying that courtroom dramas are not normally my preferred genre. However, thousands of positive reviews and my Mom''s personal recommendation cannot be ignored forever. I''m so glad that I gave this one a try! I was immediately sucked in by the eloquent writing and perplexing mystery. The author''s professional background also lent a sense of credibility to the narrative that is absent in many novels. As a psychology major, I appreciated the inclusion of the psychiatrist character and the part she played in diagnosing one of the suspects as well as the genetic testing dimension. I think it added a fascinating element to the novel. What I love about this book is that it hoodwinks the reader. I began reading with a bit of bravado, falsely believing that I would not be surprised by the "shocking, twist-ending" that so many reviews rave about. Much to my amazement, what they say is true... I never saw it coming either. To me, nothing is more impressive than a strong and unexpected ending such as those found in Stephen King''s novels. When I finished Defending Jacob I was still left wondering about the culpability of some of the characters. The fact that Mr. Landay is able to cultivate this feeling of uncertainty and turmoil is testament to his immense skill as a writer.
18 people found this helpful
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Hauserschmitten
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Wanted to like it
Reviewed in the United States on April 27, 2019
Intriguing storyline and really wanted to read it but couldn’t get through the authors excessive use of words. Every sentence, every paragraph could have been said with half as much verbiage. Even tried to scan read it and kept getting bogged down. Was he paid by the word... See more
Intriguing storyline and really wanted to read it but couldn’t get through the authors excessive use of words. Every sentence, every paragraph could have been said with half as much verbiage. Even tried to scan read it and kept getting bogged down. Was he paid by the word like Dickens?
10 people found this helpful
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S. Warfield
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Exceptional literary crime novel
Reviewed in the United States on May 24, 2013
William Landay has written an excellent but dark literary crime novel about the stabbing death of a 14-year-old boy in an affluent suburb of Boston. Ben Rifkin was found stabbed to death in a park where people jogged and students walked to school through the leafy grounds.... See more
William Landay has written an excellent but dark literary crime novel about the stabbing death of a 14-year-old boy in an affluent suburb of Boston. Ben Rifkin was found stabbed to death in a park where people jogged and students walked to school through the leafy grounds. Ben was known as a bully at school and one of his victims was the son of the assistant district attorney, Andy Barber. Andy and his wife Laurie and their teenage son, Jacob, had always lived happy lives together as a family unit, with Laurie overseeing the care of her family with much love and diligence. Andy was a bit more relaxed about it all, but he loved Jacob and had dreams for his only child.

The life of the Barber family is shattered by bits and pieces when what little evidence found at the crime scene points to Jacob as the killer. Jacob denies that he had anything to do with it, but because of a dark secret that Andy has kept from Laurie that he finally discloses, Laurie begins to doubt her son''s honesty. One of the themes that "Defending Jacob" tackles is the idea of an inherited tendency for violent behavior such as the "murder gene." Nature and nurture play their separate parts, but is violence and murder in the DNA of Jacob?

Andy Barber must take leave of his ADA position while his son''s trial before a grand jury is going on and he assigns himself as one of the defense lawyers. The prosecuting attorney is trying to be the lofty lawyer that he isn''t, and is met with more objections than he can count. Before the end of Jacob''s trial, a twist in the story occurs, but the biggest twist of all is at the end of the book.

"Defending Jacob" is narrated by the father, Andy Barber, and transcripts of parts of the trial have his voice, also. He tells the story looking on as more suspicions about his son and even evidence turn up, and he watches his wife Laurie become a shell of herself as she was before. Laurie becomes distant, suspicious of Jacob and loses so much weight that she never gains back. She is also angry that Andy refuses to see the flaws in Jacob that she sees. Slowly this once loving and close family is broken down over the course of the story and the ending has a shocking twist.

The characters in this book are people who could live next door, and who are worthy of the reader''s care and concern. A lot is learned about them and their own families of origin as the book progresses. Since the author was an assistant district attorney before he starting writing full-time, the legal aspects of the story are compelling and accurate. Mr. Landay knows what he is writing about.

Even when things are going better for the Barber family, there is a dark feeling that hovers just above that doesn''t leave when the book is put down. It is intrinsic throughout the story and makes it seem more like reality. In an interview with the author at the back of the book, he says he wanted this story to be one of those "what if" situations, and he met that goal with "Defending Jacob." The interview gives some information and insight into the author''s writing, and there is also a list of questions for a study guide.

I found this to be quite a page-turner and not ever dull or slow. The court scenes were especially interesting and informative. The end will hit you like a brick wall.

Highly recommended for readers who like legal thrillers and mysteries and also literary fiction.
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Celina Barber
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
An anger-provoking test of my willpower.
Reviewed in the United States on May 8, 2021
Defending Jacob is decent and not good, at the same time. I’ll just say, it has good bones. A Kindle note I wrote while reading: “This book is ridiculous. I’m going between angry, annoyed, confused, flabbergasted, and back to angry. I keep fighting the urge to... See more
Defending Jacob is decent and not good, at the same time. I’ll just say, it has good bones.
A Kindle note I wrote while reading:
“This book is ridiculous. I’m going between angry, annoyed, confused, flabbergasted, and back to angry. I keep fighting the urge to give up on this damned book.
One moment Andy and Laurie are well-versed and level-headed, and the next they immediately become the polar opposite.
I get that they’re trying to show how irrational people can be when they’re under immense pressure. However, this takes it to an unbelievable extreme. Especially considering Andy is a ####### lawyer! It’s an insult to the intelligence of his own characters, and it just doesn’t fit them.”

The characters were bland, making it hard to like them. They all made terrible decisions.
And Laurie.... sigh. During Andy and Laurie’s first appointment with Dr. Vogel, I could have strangled Laurie. From that point on, I truly disliked her.

Now, after I’ve complained about the book, let’s talk about why I gave it three stars.
The story itself, is great. Being able to see the legal system from an inside perspective, was very interesting as well as eye-opening. I really do think that if I didn’t dislike the characters so much, and if I were a bit more forgiving, I would have really liked this book.

But, since I’m me, I liked it and I also hated it.
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Top reviews from other countries

Fair Play
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Disappointing
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 13, 2019
Three stars means okay. I did not like this book overall. There were parts I did like and liked very much. But overall this book irked me. Maybe it was because I read it after just finishing Presumed Innocent. That was a masterpiece. Without any spoilers, this book is...See more
Three stars means okay. I did not like this book overall. There were parts I did like and liked very much. But overall this book irked me. Maybe it was because I read it after just finishing Presumed Innocent. That was a masterpiece. Without any spoilers, this book is essentially a nature vs nurture argument. To me, that argument is best left to a non-fiction book in the context of crime and criminality. I don''t want it thrown into my fiction reading in such a mish-mash and diluted fashion. The other problem I had with this book is the characters. Not one of the main characters is likeable. Indeed they are despicable for one reason or another. The author had the most annoying habit of introducing a seemingly important event but wanders off into excruciatingly irrelevant details. I''m screaming ''get on with it!'' Witness the bumping into Dan Rifkin at the Whole Foods store: "Dan Rifkin guided his cart into the checkout line besides ours. He was five feet away ..." This is the dead boy''s father and I''m waiting for the confrontation but instead Landay writes, "... He wore ... His belt was canvas ... embroidered pattern of little ships'' anchors... " Yadiyadiya. So what! That kind of annoying stuff was repeated ad infinitum through the book. The ending was weak. Thoroughly disappointed as this book came highly recommended.
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Portia Mukherjee
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Could have been better!!!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 17, 2020
15 minutes into watching Defending Jacob, I realized it’s a book. So, I dropped it and immediately got the book. I liked the story and the execution of the plot. Unlike the series, the book is narrated by Andy Barber. The characters are likeable and I liked Andy Barber. The...See more
15 minutes into watching Defending Jacob, I realized it’s a book. So, I dropped it and immediately got the book. I liked the story and the execution of the plot. Unlike the series, the book is narrated by Andy Barber. The characters are likeable and I liked Andy Barber. The book moves through the steady flow. As the chapters progress, we realize the past incidences that bring us in the present scenario. The book slumps for some portions but picks up the pace soon. Defending Jacob is not a legal thriller surrounding the courtroom. The family going through the accusation and in preparation of the courtroom trials. That’s unique and it got extended to its ending as well. In most books, I wouldn’t like this ending, but for this one, I don’t think it couldn’t be any better.
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Chimpy2021
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A very good read but, it could have ended better
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 20, 2020
Defending Jacob has so many highlights and I found that I couldn''t put this book down. I was drawn in from the first few pages. The fact that you are going from Andy Barber in court to a court case against his son makes you interested. The book was very well written and it...See more
Defending Jacob has so many highlights and I found that I couldn''t put this book down. I was drawn in from the first few pages. The fact that you are going from Andy Barber in court to a court case against his son makes you interested. The book was very well written and it does make you think about what you would do if this was your child in this situation. However, I feel like I wanted more from the ending. What happens to Andy Barber? Don''t get me wrong the ending wasn''t bad and does make you go ''Oh S***'' but, there was this massive build up and personally for me, it could have ended better.
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Kym Hamer
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Good pacy plot
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 23, 2019
This had been on my kindle for a while and I''d forgotten what drew me to it in the first place so I enjoyed heading into this without prior knowledge. Loved the twists and turns and the psychology of Andy''s situation. I would have liked more insight from Jacob himself - his...See more
This had been on my kindle for a while and I''d forgotten what drew me to it in the first place so I enjoyed heading into this without prior knowledge. Loved the twists and turns and the psychology of Andy''s situation. I would have liked more insight from Jacob himself - his character seemed a bit flat in comparison to the others in the book - but I''m not sure whether this would have made it a better read or not. Good pacy plot - 4-stars.
3 people found this helpful
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Sarah-Lou
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Brilliant from start to finish
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 28, 2020
Andy Barber is a DA, ready to help find and prosecute the murderer of child who attends the same school as his son, Jacob. However, when he finds a knife, which matches the murder weapon in his own son''s room, he has to confront the possibility his own son may be the...See more
Andy Barber is a DA, ready to help find and prosecute the murderer of child who attends the same school as his son, Jacob. However, when he finds a knife, which matches the murder weapon in his own son''s room, he has to confront the possibility his own son may be the killer. This is a brilliantly written book, with super sharp, realistic dialogue. It shows how this devastating event tears a family apart and stretches their loyalty to one another to the limit. The beauty is, you never quite know who to believe. It gives a great insight into the US legal system without bogging you down in too much detail or complicated facts. I was totally by the ending. It''s a book which leaves you thinking about it, long after you have finished reading.
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