Defending Jacob

When assistant D.A. Andy Barber gets a case involving a murdered boy who's a classmate of his son, there are immediate gripes about conflict of interest. Then evidence points to Andy's son, Jacob, as the murderer, and the D.A. takes Andy off the case--now he finds himself on the other side of the law, trying to prove Jacob's innocence. But the more he investigates, the more he realizes there's a lot about his son he doesn't know, including whether Jacob is capable of murder.

Defending Jacob is a combination legal and psychological thriller, and William Landay keeps readers guessing about what happened to the murdered boy and the true nature of Jacob's psyche throughout. Andy believes his son cannot commit murder, going so far as to destroy potential evidence, but his wife, Laurie, questions whether she and Andy had been good parents, and if Jacob had needed help that they never provided. These may be realistic reactions, but they make Laurie somewhat hard to like, as if she's being disloyal to her son by assuming the worst so quickly.

Landay's overall style could use some editing--he repeatedly mentions Laurie's weight loss during the ordeal, for example, and takes half a page to describe idyllic beach scenes on a resort's website--but the story in Defending Jacob effectively dramatizes questions about how well we know those we love, and how far we would go to protect them, even from themselves. --Elyse Dinh-McCrilllis, freelance writer/editor, blogging at Pop Culture Nerd

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