Author: William Landay
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Crime, Mystery
First Publication: 2012
Major Characters: Andy Barber, Jacob Barber, Laurie Barber, Ben Rifkin, Dan Rifkin, Jonathan Klein, Neal Logiudice, Father O’Leary, Paul Duffy, Derek Yoo, Leonard Patz
Setting Place: Newton, Massachussets (United States)
Theme: Nature or Nurture
Book Summary: Defending Jacob by William Landay
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?
Book Review: Defending Jacob by William Landay
I found Defending Jacob by William Landay to be an original, gripping, complex, and an interesting crime thriller as well as emotional and a thought provoking family drama. What made this an interesting read for me was the combination of the legal side of the crime, the courtroom drama and the emotional family drama of a family in crisis after their son Jacob is accused of a violent crime.
The main protagonist is a long-time assistant D.A. named Andy Barber. He’s second in command to a D.A. with higher political aspirations. The two are friends; Andy gets all the high profile cases because he’s very good at what he does. Andy is married to the love of his life, Laurie, and they have a teenaged son named Jacob.
“At some point as adults we cease to be our parents’ children and we become our children’s parents instead.”
When one of jacob’s classmates is stabbed to death in a local park while on his way to school, the entire community is shocked. Andy immediately takes charge of the case, determined to see that the killer is severely punished once the police find him or her.
But then, Andy is stunned when his own son becomes the principal suspect in the killing after classmates reveal that Jacob had a knife much like the one the police have described as the missing murder weapon.
Andy insists, of course, that Jacob is innocent. He simply knows this intuitively because he loves his son. But Jacob is indicted and eventually tried for the crime. Andy’s boss distances herself; that friendship is ended, and the case is given over to the number two prosecutor behind Andy, an ambitious, insecure prosecutor who is determined to make his bones by successfully prosecuting the case against Andy’s son. Inevitably, all of this takes a toll on Andy and Laura’s marriage, and so this is also a portrait of a family in crisis.
“The interior of a teenager’s mind is an endless war between Stupid and Clever.”
The fourteen year old Jacob is standing trial for murder and we don’t know if he’s been falsely accused or not. There are things that point to his innocence, but also actions that point to his guilt. Even though it is a much denser read and told using a very different narrative voice, We Need to Talk About Kevin explores some of the same terrain of mental pathology and the genetic and external factors that combine to result in antisocial behaviors.
Defending Jacob by William Landay raises some interesting questions concerning the existence of a “murder gene” and whether violence can be passed down through the generations like eye color.
This bestseller book Defending Jacob by William Landay is adapted in a mini series starring Chris Evans as Andy Barber and telecasted on Apple TV in April 2020.