Chad Sayban's Reviews > Defending Jacob

Defending Jacob by William Landay
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Feb 27, 2012

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bookshelves: good, early-review-book, own
Read from October 23, 2011 to February 25, 2012

Massachusetts assistant district attorney Andy Barber has tried criminal cases for more than twenty years. But when the death of his son’s classmate rocks the town and Andy’s son is accused of the crime, his world is turned upside down. Andy’s instincts are to protect the boy he loves at any cost. But as he searches for the truth, he finds that he doesn’t know his boy nearly as well as he thought. At the same time, Andy’s past is quickly catching up with him and threatening to destroy his entire family.

Early on, Defending Jacob drags. Really drags. Told through the eyes of myopic father Andy Barber, the story really is as slow to come to its wits as its main character. Maybe that was what Landay was shooting for, but it makes the first two hundred pages drudgery. The family drama is pretty cliché and doesn’t really offer any powerful relationships. The first person narration really handicaps the story. Ultimately Andy is merely an observer of the real conflicts going on around him between his rival assistant DA, his wife, his son and his rediscovered father. It just never feels like Andy ever really engages in his own story.

Once the story hits the courtroom, it picks up steam, but due to Landay’s heavy handed use of foreshadowing, the reader already knows what the verdict is going to be from the first chapter. The only questions remaining are how it happened and what will the aftermath be. While those revelations in the final fifty pages are very creative and well crafted, it only partially makes up for what is an otherwise average story.

Legal thrillers written by lawyers can be a mixed bag. Usually the courtroom scenes are strong, but once the story leaves the containment of the courthouse, the story tends to lose its punch. Defending Jacob really falls into that category. Even the wiz-bang ending can only provide some compensation for the hours of tedious labor that is required to get there.
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12/29/2011 page 98
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