Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Defending Jacob” as Want to Read:
Defending Jacob
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Defending Jacob

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  276,234 ratings  ·  21,664 reviews
Award-winning author William Landay has written the consummate novel of an embattled family in crisis - a suspenseful, character-driven mystery that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control.

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty
Hardcover, 421 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by Delacorte Press
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Defending Jacob, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Myste I seem to be in the minority in thinking that Jacob did not commit either murder. Perhaps it's just what I want to believe, but seeing as there was ne…moreI seem to be in the minority in thinking that Jacob did not commit either murder. Perhaps it's just what I want to believe, but seeing as there was never any truly damning evidence in either case, I just don't believe it. I think the entire purpose of the story was to throw in the twist that despite the successive history of violence and killers in the father's family and all the suspicion that surrounded Jacob's own actions, it was the mother who turned out to be the killer. It's a heck of a twist and required a lot of build up to be believable; I think it was, though.(less)
Janet This book was exceedingly tedious, but I wanted to find out how it ended. I found the dialog especially annoying, consisting of statement-disagreement…moreThis book was exceedingly tedious, but I wanted to find out how it ended. I found the dialog especially annoying, consisting of statement-disagreement-statement-disagreement (yawn). That said, the plot line was interesting.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.99  · 
Rating details
 ·  276,234 ratings  ·  21,664 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Defending Jacob
Apr 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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! ...more
Nilufer Ozmekik
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
As soon as I got the great news that Apple TV will adapt this book into the limited TV series and cast America’s ass a.k.a Chris Evans as Andy Barber, It and Knives Out ‘s brilliant actor Jaeden Martell as Jacob and I said: “Hell yeah!” we got the mind bending, twisty, surprising story we deserved. So I made a fast rereading to remember some intense parts and details of the book. By the way Michelle Dockery as Laurie and Oscar awarded J. K. Simmons as Billy Barber are killing it! And imitation g ...more
Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-kindle, reviewed, 2012
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 sentence. A
switterbug (Betsey)
Dec 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
"The boy had been stabbed three times in the chest. One strike punctured the heart and would by itself have been fatal. The knife was driven straight in and jerked straight out again, one-two-three, like a bayonet. The weapon had a jagged edge, evidenced by shredding at the left edge of each wound and in the torn shirt fabric. The angle of entry suggested an attacker about...five foot ten or so, although the sloping ground in the park made this projection unreliable. The weapon had not been foun ...more
Jan 14, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, audio
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. ...more
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i generally prefer my mystery/thrillers to focus on the law of ‘law and order’ (ie. police investigations, crime, etc). but every once in awhile, im fascinated by the order (ie. lawyers, trials, etc). and this definitely scratched my courtroom itch.

i found this to be a really compelling story - what do you do when your son becomes the primary suspect in a case you are currently investigating? im not a parent, but i really empathised with andy and had no difficulty understanding his impossible p

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
Em Lost In Books
this story has an open end, readers are free to draw their own conclusion about the murders and murderer but where this book really pulled me in was the court room drama and all that was said in favor of and against the murderer. Other than that I found it to be a mediocre read.
Ahmad Sharabiani
Defending Jacob, William Landay

For twenty years, Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney, in Newton, Massachusetts. He is investigating the murder of a 14-year-old boy, Ben Rifkin, who was a classmate of his son Jacob.

Andy initially suspects Leonard Patz, a known local pedophile, but soon, he is approached by Ben’s friend who hints at animosity between Ben and Jacob. Andy searches Jacob’s room and discovers a knife that fit the description of the murder weapon. Unsettled, Andy dispos
Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
I have had Defending Jacob on my TBR list for awhile and have been waiting for the right time to read it. This was the perfect time. I love when that happens.

I found Defending Jacob 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 Jaco
Defending Jacob was a riveting and very enjoyable thriller one that will send chills up your spine.
My second read of this novel as just as compelling and unsettling as the first

A son accused of Murder and a family on trial.

Andy Barbers job is to put killers behind bars and when a boy from his son Jacob's school is found murdered Andy is under pressure to find his killer and prosecute.
When a crucial piece of evidence turns up linking Jacob to the murder the Barbers lives are turned upside down.
Mariah Roze
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book went through my newsfeed once, a really long time ago, and ever since then I have been wanting to read it. When I saw it at my library I snatched it up right away. This book did not disappoint!

What the book was about:
The book is told from the father's point of view, Andy Barber. He was an assistant district attorney that people loved and adored. He and his wife, Laurie, had an amazing relationship and one child, Jacob. Who was a teenager.
All of a sudden, there quiet, peaceful city had
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: robert-s-reads
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
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2020
There's nothing much to say other than that this didn't worked out for me. Don't get me wrong this was not a badly written book or anything, it's just that I realized that I don't really like legal thrillers. My favourite part in this was the ending. I thought everything was already in the table before me then the twist!

ps. Chris Evans looks so good for someone who is supposed to be in his fifties!!
James Thane
Sep 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
This legal/family thriller is strongly reminiscent of Presumed Innocent, the novel by Scott Turow that basically set the standard for every legal thriller that would follow.

In this case, 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
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars!


Imagine being a parent whose son is accused of a heinous crime.

You want to believe him...


Defending Jacob is about Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber whose son Jacob is arrested for the murder of his classmate. Andy believes in his son's innocence 100%. Even when evidence starts to come out that makes little Jakey look guilty as Fuck.

I'm not going to give anything away but I will say that despite guessing the ending pretty early on, it still hit me
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
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
JaHy☝Hold the Fairy Dust
***5 " Unwavering " Stars**
Have you ever tried to write a review but no matter how hard you tried , you just couldn't articulate your thoughts properly ? I feel your pain.

I've written and deleted this review more times than I care to admit. Can you say scatter brain? I apologize in advance for this condensed rambling mess. . . . which will tell you nothing about the book itself, is the best I could come up with :-(
Thankfully, there are numerous fantastic reviews on GR. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEA
Lindsay - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
4 stars! This was a highly suspenseful legal thriller/family drama. I was completely caught off guard by that ending (I love when that happens!).

The story revolves around solving the murder of fourteen year old Ben Rifkin who was stabbed three times and left dead in a local park. I flip-flopped countless times on my feelings toward the fourteen year old defendant, Jacob. The author, William Landay, did a great job of stringing the reader along pondering Jacob's innocence. I found it very intrig
Richard Derus
Mar 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Real Rating: 3.25* of five

The Publisher Says: 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 with the murder of a fellow student.

Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to p
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-borrowed
Wowza! A gripping courtroom thriller that examines the lengths one husband and father will go to protect his family. Make no mistake the pace of the story is slow and the legal process is stretched out in an effort to keep us dangling for over 400 pages to reach a jaw dropping ending. "Defending Jacob" might have been written in 2012, but it has made its way to the top of my favorites list for 2017. ...more
Mary Beth
Jan 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you have been like me and have this on your Tbr like forever, I think you might want to read it. I don't know what took so long for me to read this. It was a big surprise. I loved this and its a really great book.

Its been awhile since I've read a good courtroom thriller and I will be reading more books by this author
It also has given me the urge to want to read more legal thrillers.

This book played very well on my emotions. It kept me in suspense, turning the pages till late at night.

Andy Ba
Sep 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: legal-fiction
Defending Jacob by William Landay is the most exciting unputdownable legal thriller i have read this year really enjoyed the storyline & the plot outstanding i finished it last night & i must say what a compelling ending i didn't see coming.

Andy Barbers job is to put killers behind bars but in a small town just outside of Boston where he lives is the kind of place parents go to bring up their children safely& violent crime is a rarity.

A boy from his son Jacob's school is found dead stabbed to de
Dec 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
I should probably "plead the fifth" on this one, as so many of my friends enjoyed this legal....thriller? mystery? angsty hand-wringer? Defending Jacob didn't really work on any level for me, sad to say. William Landay's many years employed as a DA are evident here, as the courtroom scenes are competently written, but implausibilities abound (as does really awful dialogue, particularly amongst adults, curiously enough). The end result is (as one keen observer noted in a one-word dismissal:) Shl ...more
Gary  the Bookworm
Aug 23, 2012 rated it liked it
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 imp ...more
Joy D
In 2007 in Newton, Massachusetts, a fourteen-year-old boy is murdered on his way to school. Jacob Barber, a classmate and son of Assistant District Attorney Andrew Barber, is accused of the crime. Another suspect gets put aside, perhaps mistakenly, when the investigation focuses on Jacob. The plot revolves around Jacob’s trial, the family’s experiences, and a grand jury hearing whose purpose remains unclear until near the end of the book.

There is a lot going on in this book. The story weaves to
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Zialipro Australia Reviews 1 6 Jan 12, 2021 10:51PM  
Play Book Tag: [Poll Ballot] Defending Jacob by William Landay - 4 stars 10 17 Sep 10, 2020 04:50PM  
Was Jacob guilty - What would you do if it was your child? 237 2211 Jul 09, 2020 09:39AM  
Play Book Tag: Defending Jacob - William Landay - 4 stars 1 14 May 31, 2020 06:58PM  
Similar books 1 25 May 03, 2020 06:45AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • O Segredo das Larvas
  • The Guest List
  • Anxious People
  • The Four Winds
  • The Vanishing Half
  • The Last Flight
  • One by One
  • The Push
  • Dear Edward
  • A Good Marriage
  • In Five Years
  • The Other Mrs.
  • The Night Swim
  • The Wives
  • American Dirt
  • 28 Summers
  • The Silent Patient
  • Invisible Girl
See similar books…
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.

Related Articles

If you've got an overflowing Want to Read shelf of books that you keep meaning to get to (one day!), you're in good company. Our company, that...
3 likes · 1 comments
“At some point as adults we cease to be our parents' children and we become our children's parents instead.” 71 likes
“The interior of a teenager’s mind is an endless war between Stupid and Clever.” 57 likes
More quotes…