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Defending Jacob
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Monthly Book Discussions > Defending Jacob, by William Landay (March 2014)

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message 1: by Corey (new)

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Be prepared for spoilers!

Synopsis:

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 protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.

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.


message 2: by Corey (new)

Corey (coreyhuffman) Start Date: March 1, 2014
End Date: March 31, 2014

Reserved for Book discussion break down.


message 3: by Doug, Co-moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Doug Cornelius (dougcornelius) | 169 comments Mod
I just finished reading the book for the second time. It was still very engaging, even though I knew how it turned out.

I live in Newton, the town where the murder takes place. I also know the author. Our kids went to the same daycare.


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments Why not ask him to join the discussion?


Brian Verendus | 15 comments I just finished the book and have a couple thoughts on it.

*contains spoilers*

First, I enjoyed the way the author moved between past and present and was not put off by the inner monologue and "but I'll get to that later" teasers. Second, I enjoyed the candor with which the author wrote on issues of family and couple dynamics. Coming from a fairly broken family, as I suspect many of us are, it often seems disingenuous when an author tries too hard to fashion that happy ending most readers want to see. Kudos to Mr. Landay for sticking to his guns and telling it like it is. (Sorry for the bad colloquialisms)

If I found fault in any part of the story, it was the lack of expansion on the twist ending. I don't have a problem with the ambiguity surrounding the did he or didn't he part. (For the record, I believe he did.) However, I wish we would have learned more about the ultimate outcome for Mrs. Barber. Was she, for example, institutionalized? Did she and Andy divorce? What were Andy's thoughts on what transpired? Did he understand? Forgive? Deny to the very last?

All in all, I found the book to be an enjoyable read. Has anyone read any of this author's other works? I'd be interested to hear if they measure up to this one.


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments It's been a month since I read the book but IMO Andy would have understood what Laurie did and why. He was guilt-ridden by the curse of his "murder gene" and blamed himself for Jacob's demise and for what it did to his wife.(keeping it a secret before they married).
It is interesting that Andy is still being persecuted by the unethical First Assistant at a grand jury hearing regarding Laurie's murder charge for Jacob's death and Andy can't avail himself of the marital privilege because a crime was committed upon their child.
The one thing that bothered me just a bit was the pre-trial motion about the propensity for violence trait that the prosecutor endeavored to use to prove Jacob's guilt. Without exception, such a trait could never be used in any state to try and prove the defendant's guilt. It is black letter law.
I recognize that the judge delayed determination until there would have been a hearing with experts to try and prove that the science was reliable enough to justify its use. But, science is nowhere near that point and even it were, the rules of evidence would still exclude it because the prejudice would overwhelmingly outweigh the relevance.
I think the judge would have denied it on the papers. Also, any prosecutor would have never mentioned it at trial because of the judge's order unless he wanted a mistrial. Frankly in my experience the reference to the family history would have resulted in a mistrial. I doubt that it could have been proven that the prosecutor was malevolently seeking a mistrial but it could have happened and jeopardy might have applied.
I did check and found one law division case that permitted the defense to use it in mitigation of the crime.
Bottom line is I loved the book for many reasons and I'm glad I bought it.


message 7: by Doug, Co-moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Doug Cornelius (dougcornelius) | 169 comments Mod
I've read his two other books, Mission Flats and The Strangler. Defending Jacob is the best of the three. Mission Flats has a flaw that will either make your throw the book against the wall, or ignore and enjoy the twist.


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments I enjoyed the interview with Landay at the end of the book. He seems very groundede


message 9: by Doug, Co-moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Doug Cornelius (dougcornelius) | 169 comments Mod
How about the central question. Do you think Jacob was the killer? We know he was found "not guilty" because of the suicide note confession of Patz. Was there enough evidence to convict Jacob?


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments Overwhelming evidence of guilt IMO. He most assuredly would have been convicted if not for the coerced and fabricated Patz confession.
I absolutely think Jacob killed both people and apparently so did Laurie.


message 11: by Doug, Co-moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Doug Cornelius (dougcornelius) | 169 comments Mod
From the legal perspective, there was the bloody thumbprint and his classmates' claims that he had a knife. I'm not sure I found it overwhelming. I thought he had a reasonable chance of being found not guilty.

The book is told from the father's perspective and he clearly had on blinders. The found knife was a key piece of evidence that Andy destroyed.


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments There was no other way out for the jury; they would not have wanted Jacob to walk on the murder of a teen. In that community I think they were a law and order society with a bias toward the state IMO. They likely would have felt Jacob's sentence would be reduced since he was a teenager so they may have felt his sentence would have been moderate.
I also think the jury was tainted by the prosecutor's reference to Andy's father's murder sentence. It's hard for a jury to wipe that out of their head.


message 13: by Doug, Co-moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Doug Cornelius (dougcornelius) | 169 comments Mod
How about the ending? What were your thoughts about the vacation and Laurie's van driving action?


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments I loved the ending. What are the chances that the young girl who went missing wasn't killed by someone other than Jacob? I think that sealed Laurie's belief in the curse of Andy's lineage and it sealed for me beyond any reasonable doubt that Jacob killed both Ben and the girl.
I think Laurie's action was a bit over the top. If she felt so strongly that Jacob was a sociopath, she called have told the island police of her strong suspicions and hoped prison could have kept Jacob off the streets.


message 15: by Doug, Co-moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Doug Cornelius (dougcornelius) | 169 comments Mod
I think Jacob was guilty. I just re-read the book and the guilt seems more obvious than the first time I read the book. Landay does a good job of using the selective beliefs of Andy to dismiss many of the red flags.


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments Yes I agree; his bias view balances nicely against that of the DA


message 17: by Doug, Co-moderator (last edited Mar 06, 2014 07:56AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Doug Cornelius (dougcornelius) | 169 comments Mod
Bill told me that the book has optioned for a Hollywood movie. What actors do you think would best fit your images of the characters?


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments Because it's a New England location, Ben Affleck comes to mind. I think he has the ability to do a great job.
For Laurie I think kate Winslett or Cate Blanchett would be perfect. For Jacob, I really don't know many young actors.
For the DA who prosecutes, I'd take Stanley Tucci.
How about your picks/


message 19: by Doug, Co-moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Doug Cornelius (dougcornelius) | 169 comments Mod
I'm biased since I know Bill and I envisioned him and his wife as Andy and Laurie while reading the book.

I agree with the Kate Winslett pick (Mrs. Landay will be happy)


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments I didn't know you know him. That is really cool. Please tell him that I loved the book and I am a former 30 year DA from NJ with 6 years thereafter in a defense work so I too know both sides.


Brian Verendus | 15 comments I envisioned someone like Clive Owen as Andy, while Laura Linney comes to mind as someone who fit my imaginary Laurie. For the Assistant DA, I think Jack Black would make an interesting pick.


message 22: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim | 7 comments I think Asa Butterfield (from Enders Game) could play Jacob - he's older than 14, but he has a baby face.
I also like the Jack Black suggestion for the Assistant DA, and maybe Naomi Watts for Laurie. For Andy, I was envisioning Mark Ruffalo.


Casey Albert | 17 comments I am about halfway through this one, and I am hooked! It is excellent so far--I haven't been able to put it down. Haven't read the above comments yet for fear of spoilers, but at my current pace I should be finished within a couple days.


Casey Albert | 17 comments alright, I just finished and I loved the ending. I disagree that there was enough evidence to convict Jacob, but I do think he was probably guilty of both murders. I just don't think the proof was beyond a reasonable doubt.


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments I read it about 6 weeks ago but I would have been more than happy as a former prosecutor to take that case to a jury. I wish it were still in my head but the circumstantial evidence and admissions made to his friend, the blood on his clothes etc made me totally convinced.
Now I'm talking before the suicide/confession of the pedophile


message 26: by Doug, Co-moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Doug Cornelius (dougcornelius) | 169 comments Mod
How do we feel about the ending? Bill told he me had to do a major re-write of the ending at the request of the editor. He wouldn't specify which part, but I have a guess.


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments I loved the ending. I found it believable. Laurie was so traumatized by the idea of the murder gene in Andy's family that it seemed real to me for her to commit a murder/suicide rather than seek help for Jacob; something she felt was unalterable. She already felt the legal system had failed after the death of Hope in Jamaica, and she believed that Jacob was on his way to a life of murder because he was a sociopath.
It all came together with the grand jury ending that tied in the start of the book. Andy would have no marital privilege to rely upon to refuse to testify because there was a crime committed upon their child; therefore the privilege could not be used. Ironically now Laurie would face trial for murder and Andy would of necessity be a material witness. The only minor thing that bothered me was the prosecutor's assertions to the grand jury to indict Laurie. That is unethical and any subsequent indictment would have been dismissed.
Please share with me( by message if necessary, what the editors made him change and why.


message 28: by Doug, Co-moderator (last edited Mar 23, 2014 04:18PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Doug Cornelius (dougcornelius) | 169 comments Mod
Me at Cold Spring Park, the site of the murder. Yes, it does have lots of trails and abuts a school.




Harold Kasselman | 27 comments Was the story based on a real incident?


message 30: by Doug, Co-moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Doug Cornelius (dougcornelius) | 169 comments Mod
No. At least not one in Greater Boston. The nugget of inspiration was a story Bill read on the "murder gene."


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments OH -ok


Bryson Shaw Just finished it and really enjoyed it. I was very surprised by the ending and thought it was well done. After the book finished I was left wondering about the boy who faked the rape accusation. I know he was not a huge part of the story, but I felt he was such a strange and interesting character that I wanted more information on him. I also really enjoyed the author's interview at the end. On a side note Andy's life had to be over, I mean how could you recover from that.


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments Which kid made a rape accusation? I don't recall that.


Bryson Shaw The boy Fitz was paying to touch. The same one Andy went to see to learn information.


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments I have forgotten that already


Brian Verendus | 15 comments That kid would have been a nightmare on the stand. I guess it's a good thing for Jacob that Fitz chose "suicide."


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments That kind of choice I wouldn't want to face


Bryson Shaw I'm just curious if the story he told Andy about Fitz going to meet some new boy held any truth.


Brian Verendus | 15 comments Two thoughts:

1) Can you really trust anything that kid said? Was he working an angle on Andy? He was willing to sell himself and blackmail. Maybe he was trying to get some money out of Andy in exchange for saying what he wanted to hear. He had to have known about the murder charge against Jacob by then.

2) If the guy was going to meet a new kid, which fits his prior m.o., it still leads me to believe the new kid wouldn't have know him yet. The jump from pedophile to killer was just a leap Andy had to make to make his theory of the case work.


Brian Verendus | 15 comments Two thoughts:

1) Can you really trust anything that kid said? Was he working an angle on Andy? He was willing to sell himself and blackmail. Maybe he was trying to get some money out of Andy in exchange for saying what he wanted to hear. He had to have known about the murder charge against Jacob by then.

2) If the guy was going to meet a new kid, which fits his prior m.o., it still leads me to believe the new kid wouldn't have know him yet. The jump from pedophile to killer was just a leap Andy had to make to make his theory of the case work.


Brian Verendus | 15 comments *known


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments I'm lost do you mean what Andy's father told him?


Brian Verendus | 15 comments I mean that information about the case would have been all over the community at that point. The father of the accused shows up and starts asking about the pedophile, and the kid thinks, 'hey, maybe I can get something out of this,' and feeds Andy some B.S. to justify his theory. It's not as if Andy wasn't blatant about what he was looking to prove.


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments I agree the kid would have been an awful witness as would Andy because the state would have brought out his influence on the kid and the whole thing would have looked collusive.
Jacob would have been convicted in my opinion if you take out the suicide confession.


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments WHEN DO YOU DECIDE ABOUT APRIL'S BOOK FOR THE MONTH?


Brian Verendus | 15 comments Harold,

The April book has already been decided. It is The Book Thief by Markus Zuzek. Voting is currently going on for the May selection. The link to the poll can be found on the group homepage on the app or goodreads.com. Hope this helps.


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments Is the Book Thief law related? I saw the movie and don't see it as legal lit


message 48: by Doug, Co-moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Doug Cornelius (dougcornelius) | 169 comments Mod
Harold - The input we received was to alternate between a legal and non-legal books. As the group comes back and grows, maybe we can do two books a month.

Here is the link for May's choices:

https://www.goodreads.com/poll/list/4...


Harold Kasselman | 27 comments I'm not sure if I voted correctly but I vote for Sycamore Row


Gerri (gerrip) | 7 comments I just finished the book (better late than never, right?). I really enjoyed story and thought that it flowed well. However, I was disappointed in the ending. Not in how the book ended, rather that it so briefly wrapped up. Especially in light of the detailed narrative of the rest of the book. I agree with Brian that the ending left so many unanswered questions. Possibly due to the required edits?

I do think Jacob killed both Ben and Hope. But I think there was a good possibility Jonathan raised enough reasonable doubt for the jury to render a not guilty verdict.


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