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Defending Jacob

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  117,257 ratings  ·  13,714 reviews
Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged wi...more
Hardcover, 421 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by Delacorte Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I’ve always had a weakness for these mystery/crime thrillers—you know, the dragon tattoos and angels & demons of the world? I suppose I should be a little embarrassed by this but I’m not. They are my peanut butter and fluff.

Defending Jacob is some of the best fluff I’ve ever tasted. It is written by a former assistant district attorney from Massachusetts with a real knack for this type of storytelling—Jacob is perfectly paced with a tugging suspense that doesn’t abate until the final sentenc...more
switterbug (Betsey)
This is as much a nuanced family drama, love story, and social inquisition as it is a murder/courtroom/legal thriller. If you can get past a few contrived plot points (this is where readers will divide), and engage with the narrator, whose reliability or unreliability is a puzzle to piece together, you will be satisfied with this warm yet dark story of a community and family unhinged by a violent crime. The author is a former DA who is skilled at informing the reader about the law and procedure...more

I'm trying to put my finger on what makes Defending Jacob such a compulsive read. Landay clearly has a killer storytelling instinct. The pacing of this novel is near perfect. He drops just enough clues, teases with just enough foreshadowing to keep the reader completely engrossed at all times. I started listening to this as an audiobook and finished it in print, not being able to turn the pages fast enough.

Defending Jacob is not a unique plot by any stretch. In fact, when I first heard about th...more
It has been YEARS since a book has had a twist that I didn't see coming. Well played William Landay, I would never have imagined the ending of this book. I will definitely have a "book hangover" from this one. I can't start a new book because I can't get this one out of my head!
I'm annoyed. As I said in one of my updates, this is an odd book, a psychological thriller with little understanding of psychology. It's written in the first person from the father's point of view. He was very annoying with his stubborn blocking of the truth from himself to his unemotional narration. If the author meant to convey a kind of underlying emotional tension, he failed miserably. The ending felt like a cheap shot, and I feel cheated.
I hated Jacob and would have preferred to rub his cocksure attitude into the sand, knock him over the head with a shovel, and then bury him with said object about six feet under. He’s more emotionless void than passionate Picasso, and he feels absolutely no responsibility for his actions. That’s your typical teenager, at least on the latter, but not having a heart is not exactly what I strive toward every day of my life. And yet I ended up completely immersed in legalese and legal suspense.

5 brilliant and heartbreaking stars :-(

This story isn't about proving Jacob is innocent or guilty. At least I didn't think so. For me this story was about fathers unconditional love for his son, no matter the outcome.

Andy Barber is a 51 year old DA. Has a wife who is a teacher and a 14 year old son, Jacob. Perfect little family. They are well known and respected in their community.
One day, he gets a call that a 14 year old boy has been found murdered in the park, not far from school, with 3 st...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
There's a stanza from a Wendell Berry poem called "The Way of Pain" that applies to both of the fathers in this story -- the one whose son was murdered, and the one whose son was accused of murder.

"And then I slept, and dreamed
the life of my only son
was required of me, and I
must bring him to the edge
of pain, not knowing why.
I woke, and yet that pain
was true. It brought his life
to the full in me. I bore him
suffering, with love like the sun,
too bright, unsparing, whole."

That fierce love, that int...more
William Landay's DEFENDING JACOB has received a lot of hype from its publishers and has been compared to Scott Turows "Presumed Innocent". Personally, this tale of the fourteen year old son of an Assistant D.A. accused of murdering a classmate put me more in mind of the William March book THE BAD SEED.

Several of Landay's characters lack flesh on their bones and the actions of some are downright unbelievable. The Jacob character must be based upon the Sphinx (he is that inscrutable) or perhaps he...more
Gary  the Bookworm
Normally, when a book screams at me, I'm going to be a movie, someday! I let it go. In the case of Defending Jacob, I sullenly read on, primarily because it was this month's selection for my book club at the Adult Center (view spoiler).I would no sooner have shown up on Tuesday AM to face this band of retired teachers and librarians without having read the book, than I would have smoked pot before taking the SAT's. So on I read, becoming increasingly annoyed as implausible pl...more
Set in a small town in Massachusetts, Defending Jacob tells the story of fourteen-year-old Jacob Barber, the son of a well-respected Assistant District Attorney, who is accused of murdering a boy in his year at school. Has Jacob been falsely accused or is he, in fact, guilty of murder?

Defending Jacob is a well-written, disturbing and gripping crime thriller with plenty of twists and turns throughout the novel to keep you interested. I really enjoyed this book. I was hooked from the very beginni...more
Jan 16, 2013 Ali rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 18, 2012 MobileMinx rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers Daring Enough to Delve Into Deep Interpersonal Dynamics
Forget what you believe about the ties that bind family and be prepared to wonder if those who populate your life are really who you think they are, and you will have the crux of William Landay's riveting novel Defending Jacob.

To say that this is a heart-wrenching story understates the high emotional toll that events take as they play out in the story of one family's drama. Jacob is the teenage son of Andy Barber, a local district attorney in the tony suburb of Newton, MA, who is charged with th...more
PROTAGONIST: Andy Barber, assistant district attorney
SETTING: Massachusetts
RATING: 4.75

Assistant Defense Attorney Andy Barber, his wife Laurie and their son Jacob are very much a normal family until one of Jacob’s classmates, 14-year-old Ben Rifkin, is murdered. Andy takes on the case until the time that evidence is found that shows his son may have been involved. At that point, the world as the Barbers know it comes undone. Ultimately, there is more substantial proof implicating Jacob, and he i...more
I love a good mystery but I've been putting this one off because the idea of a legal/courtroom setting wasn't appealing to me at all. The title threw me off. I understood it as defending jacob in court, which applies - but this is MORE about defending the jacob who is your kid. This is the story of two very different 14 year old schoolmates. One ends up dead, the other ends up accused of killing the other. The parents' perspectives on both sides are closely examined.

Your kid. If you have one, i...more
This legal thriller was more taut and riveting than any I have read in years. Arriving late to the party in reading this book, I am fortunate to have remained unaware of the ending, which was killer! The scene played out in the supermarket checkout line was sheer perfection - "quivering with hatred like a tuning fork". I could almost feel it, I swear. Excellent work, I recommend it without reservation.
Jessica Severson
I hold books featuring cops and lawyers to a higher standard. First, because I AM a lawyer. And second, because if you're going to have that kind of protagonist, they need to be actually believable in that role. Otherwise find another way into your story. (And there are many. Note all the thrillers that feature retired or former cops, private investigators, random people who just decide to investigate, etc.)

So I was frustrated by this book several times because its protagonist (a career prosecut...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Whew! What a book. Not having read most of the thrillers and courtroom dramas that have been best sellers for the last 20 years or so I am perhaps more susceptable than many readers to the suspense of this thrilling courtroom drama. I picked it up thinking it was an Oprah sort of book - son accused of murder, parents argue, younger sibling starts acting out, family disintegrates under the strain of defending their son.

Turns out it's rather more sophisticated than that. First of all the book is n...more
I don’t read many legal thrillers but I picked up this one because of good reviews promising appeal to a wider audience. It’s also a psychological story about a family and a marriage, describing what happens to a husband and wife when their teenaged son is accused of murdering a classmate. However I thought it was too long and repetitive in the middle section, and weak because limited to the father Andy’s point of view. Most of the suspense in the book is created because Andy is narrating from a...more
Kristen Doyle
As shared in my blog post...

I’ll start off by telling you I’m giving this book 5 stars, which is something I didn’t think I’d do for a legal thriller. Defending Jacob is about a family struggling to hold things together when their teenage son is accused and charged with murder. The question at the core of this novel is… “How far would you go to protect your child?” It’s a heart wrenching, edge of your seat, can’t put down kind of book with twists and turn...more
*** Spoiler Alert***
Ok, there are the obvious that the book brings out... Murder gene, did Jacob do it, bulling, etc. I couldn't get past all the little stuff... Why did he go back so far in time? 1997. First of all Facebook wasn't all that wildly popular & everyone was on MySpace back then. Also the part where Jacob was using his iPod touch to visit those websites when the iPod touch wasn't even released until 09/2007. A;so the Jacobs BFF playing Wii when it was just released and everyone s...more
A word about the rating before I begin my review. Generally four stars means a book contained the things I love most in fiction - characterization, beautiful language, provocative themes. This book lacked 2/3 of that, and the last third - themes - weren't as developed as I might have liked. However, for what this book set out to do, it actually deserves five, because it was meant to be suspenseful and thought provoking and a good read, and it was all of those things. My goodreads integrity compe...more
4/22/14 Reread for a book club discussion.

6/28/12 Andy Barber, an assistant district attorney in an affluent community outside Boston, is in charge of a case involving the murder of a boy in his son's class. He is shocked to find out that a fingerprint on the victim's clothing matches with his son, Jacob. Jacob declares his innocence, and his father sets out to defend him with the help of a good defense attorney. Andy also reveals to his wife, Laurie, the secret that he comes from a family of vi...more
Not a perfect book. But a compelling read. Be warned - you won't like any of the characters in this book, there is no good guy, but you won't be able to put it down. It is obvious from the first that the ending won't be happy, but you won't know until the very last page just how unhappy it is.
All the negative criticism of this book is accurate, to a point. There are factual errors in everything from law to religion to you-name-it. There are no likeable characters. Much of the book drags. But there are a couple of things that make this book a worthwhile read. First, it gives an interesting view of what happens when a family member is accused of a crime: the ostracism the whole family faces, the financial burden of providing counsel, the loss of friends, jobs and status (and possibly m...more
Take a look at my Goodreads to-read list. How many legal thrillers do
you see there? One? Two? Probably just one now, huh?
The thing is, I love these but they really are a dime a dozen, and
the similarities throughout them is enough to bland you off reading entirely.
So it takes a really good rave or a buzz for me to commit one to the to-read list.

I had first heard of this book via the Books on the Nightstand podcast, and Michael Kindness was raving about it. That was good enough for me: the last t...more
I absolutely adored this book. This is exactly what I love to read. Characters who know themselves completely, writing strong enough for me to trust wholeheartedly where the book is going.

Andy Barber is an amazing character to read (as a father and a son). Complex in every way, loves and trusts his son to the point that he is blinkered to anything negative. Not a sickly sweet over the top father though, he probably comes across as cold and detached to his family.
As we see things from his pers...more
These days, lawyer-and-courtroom books are a dime a dozen. Fortunately, Defending Jacob is no ordinary lawyer-and-courtroom book. It’s smart, suspenseful, and a downright insightful look into an ordinary family that is on the road to implosion. Along the way, it has much to say about teenage angst, psychology, the latest genetic techniques, social media, family dynamics and more. Put another way, it’s a work of literary fiction as well as a page-turning thriller.

Andy Barber is the first assistan...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Was Jacob guilty? 66 1141 Oct 13, 2014 06:11AM  
ending 59 418 Oct 10, 2014 11:22AM  
What did Logiudice want Andy to say that would indict Laurie? 5 193 Oct 03, 2014 04:12AM  
Was Jacob guilty - What would you do if it was your child? 216 1813 Aug 18, 2014 04:44PM  
the kitchen knife.... 6 151 Aug 15, 2014 01:17PM  
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William Landay is the author of the New York Times bestseller Defending Jacob. Previous novels include Mission Flats, winner of the Dagger Award for best debut crime novel, and The Strangler, which was an L.A. Times favorite crime novel and nominated for the Strand Magazine Critics Award as best crime novel of the year.
More about William Landay...
Mission Flats The Strangler

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“At some point as adults we cease to be our parents' children and we become our children's parents instead.” 49 likes
“The interior of a teenager’s mind is an endless war between Stupid and Clever.” 39 likes
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