Book Review: Defending Jacob

Defending JacobBook: Defending Jacob by William Landay

Published January 2012 by Random House|Pages: 432

Where I Got It: E-book|Nook Store

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction/Mystery/Thriller

Goodreads|William Landay’s Website

Summary: 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 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?

Defending Jacob…I have mixed feelings.  There were things I thought were interesting, but there were things that I didn’t like.

One interesting thing is that Andy (Jacob’s dad) is very insistent that his son didn’t do it, and that it was someone else.  He’s very much convinced that his perfect little angel could never kill someone.  At the same time, you have Laurie (Jacob’s mom) has the complete opposite reaction of Andy.  She’s open to the possibility that her son could have done it, especially when she starts reflecting on Jacob’s entire life, and wonders if he could have done it because of how he acted as a kid.  I’m not surprised by their reactions or surprised by how different they are.

Also interesting is the idea of a murder gene.  Andy’s father and grandfather ended up in jail for murder, and while it wasn’t explored as much as it could have been, it was really nice to see a bit more focus on the genetic end of things.  The author could have focused on how the media is to blame, but instead went with something completely different.  It was nice to see something that could have been passed down from generation to generation, and how Andy, Jacob and Andy’s dad ended up so different, even though they all have the same “murder gene.”

More than anything else, Defending Jacob is about the lengths a parent will go to in order to protect their child.  Andy doesn’t even want to face the possibility that his son could have committed murder that he’ll do most anything to prove his son’s innocence.  Laurie, on the other hand, is much more willing to believe Jacob could have killed someone, and it really breaks her heart.  How far will you go to keep a loved one out of jail?

This actually brings me to what I didn’t like about the book.  I didn’t like the mysterious courtroom transcripts, and I didn’t like Andy as a narrator.  I felt like he was really detached from what was going on, and despite his insistence that Jacob what innocent, I felt like he didn’t show any emotion regarding what was going on with his son.  I didn’t like the random flashbacks to Andy’s childhood and I COULDN’T STAND the vague “if only I knew then what I know now” comments.  It made it totally obvious that there something else going on, and so I wasn’t surprised to find that Laurie snaps and does something…extreme.

I found it fairly predictable- especially the ending, which didn’t actually resolve anything.  Were the last few paragraphs creepy?  Sure, but I was expecting loose ends to be tied up.  A lot of stuff was introduced but for me, they didn’t go anywhere, and you’re never completely sure if Jacob actually did it or not.  Plus, there’s absolutely no resolution to what Laurie does, which was most frustrating. I just wanted to know why, and that is something we have to guess.  I normally don’t mind open-ended endings, but this one was just annoying.  Let’s just say the ending was one big WTF-moment.

Final Thoughts:

The ending was the most frustrating part of the book.  Throw in a bunch of characters who didn’t seem to show a lot of emotion and plot points that don’t really go anywhere, and you have a book that was as interesting as it could have been.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, and there’s quite a bit to think about.  But everything combined leads to a 3 star rating for Defending Jacob.  

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