book review: defending jacob

Title: Defending Jacob

Author: William Landay

Genre:  Fiction, Crime Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Publishing Date: 2012

Defending Jacob, book cover
Defending Jacob,
William Landay


Synopsis: In a small, upper-class Boston suburb, a 14-year-old boy has been stabbed to death. And the primary suspect quickly becomes Jacob Barber, the only child of Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber. The story, told from Andy’s perspective, follows the Barber family through the months leading up to and through the trial, as evidence slowly mounts against the brooding, intense, anti-social Jacob.

Opinion: Defending Jacob was the second book chosen by my newly formed book club. I haven’t read a crime drama in quite some time (A Time to Kill is the last one that comes to mind), so I was eager to tackle this one.

From a crime-drama-thriller-twist-ending perspective, Defending Jacob did not disappoint. After a slow start, this novel picked up the pace after about 50 pages and never slowed down. It was like reading a movie. And I was constantly changing my mind about what I thought happened—leaving me feeling like an outside detective on the case.

That being said, the story did have a tremendous flaw for me as a reader. Landay never lets the reader know for sure whether or not Jacob is guilty; it’s up for him or her to infer based on the details given. But Landay paints Jacob in such a poor light, that by Part III, I didn’t care what happened to him. As a result, I wasn’t pulling for any particular outcome—guilty, innocent, or otherwise—which made the final twists and turns of the story fall flat.

The other strange part of this novel is that it takes such lengths to carry the reader through the lingering months leading up to the trial and even through the trial itself. So when what seems like a climax happens with more than 50 pages to go, it leaves you wondering, what else is going to happen here?

If I were writing this novel, I think I would have condensed the pre-trial and actual trial portions, and added more meat to the post-trial twists. So much happens after the trial and it’s breezed over as if the author was simply tired of writing and wanted to wrap it up.

Overall: 3 out of 5

Who Should Read This Book: Fans of crime dramas, for sure. Those who are looking for an exciting page-turner with plenty of twists at the end. Book clubs looking for an intense read and a less intense discussion.

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