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Defending Jacob Hardcover – 15 Mar 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 136 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (15 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1409115372
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409115373
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.8 x 23.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 414,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Landay was an assistant district attorney before he turned to writing. He is the author of two previous novels, Mission Flats and The Strangler. He lives in Boston with his family.

Product Description


Not since the novels of Scott Turow has a crime thriller - any thriller, though this too happens to be a literary legal thriller - shaken me by the throat like this. It's a stunning, shocking, emotionally harrowing ride in which the reader is plunged into a riveting but terrible murder trial and the heartbreaking implosion of a loving family. I had to lie down when I finished it (all too soon) to still my beating heart. ... What sets this apart from many thrillers is Landay's remarkable storytelling which allows him to craft the most sensational twists without forfeiting belief. But it's not just about suspense. Landay has written an unflinching account of the complexities of family life in a changing world (Carla McKay DAILY MAIL)

Landay clearly derives his premise from Scott Turow's prosecutor-in-the-dock thriller Presumed Innocent, and to say Defending Jacob is almost as good as Turow is high, not faint praise; the handling of Barber's voice is impeccable, the use of interwoven transcripts of his appearance before a grand jury is a distinctive and cunning device. (THE SUNDAY TIMES)

a clever blend of legal thriller and issue-oriented family implosion (NEW YORK TIMES)

This is a legal thriller worthy of mention in the same breath as Turow's masterpiece. A compelling read (Marcel Berlins THE TIMES)

Defending Jacob's skill as a psychological thriller is what we aren't told; we view Jacob via a parents eyes. And the books twist provides a chilling conclusion. (STYLIST)

Word of mouth on a new novel is not always to be trusted but sometimes a new book handsomely fulfils all the expectations. This is such a novel. ... If Turow's Presumed Innocent remains the definitive legal thriller, Defending Jacob is one of the most accomplished to have followed in its wake. A final word of advice. Tackle this quickly before friends start to discuss the shocking ending. (Barry Forshaw DAILY EXPRESS)

William Landay is being talked about as a new Scott Turow or John Grisham, having been one of Boston's district attorneys. He is at home with both the processes of detection and courtroom scenes ... a taut, tense, well-written thriller. (LITERARY REVIEW)

an excellent legal thriller ... Defending Jacob gets you by the throat precisely because of the skill with which Landay makes one identify with the increasingly terrified Barber as he attempts to ignore unpalatable facts about Jacob and marshals the evidence in favour of his son. (THE OLDIE)

Landay's first legal thriller makes Scott Turow and John Grisham seem like amateurs. (Mark Sanderson EVENING STANDARD)

Book Description

PRESUMED INNOCENT meets WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN in the thriller of the year.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
After I watched Emily Rooney interview William Landay on her TV show, Greater Boston, I read his three novels to date in reverse order. Defending Jacob is the third and best. The unexpected turn of plot in Jamaica is the most credible, and there is more laugh-provoking humor in this work (especially in the repartee between Jacob's parents and in arch comments about mothers) than in the preceding two, The Strangler and Mission Flats. But in all three, the development of character is positively Jamesian, evoking recollections of the insightful, analytic descriptions of Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady. This work constitutes a serious exploration of recidivism within and across generations, and, true to the author's disowning of certainty in matters criminal, it suggests but does not dictate conclusions about the disturbing events depicted. Not at all pulp fiction, this novel is several cuts above the contemporary syllabus of crime fiction. This excellent book is, in Milton's phrase, the life blood of a master spirit.
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Format: Paperback
A 14-year old boy is killed in Cold Spring Park, near Boston. Jacob Barber, a class-mate of the victim, is accused of the boy's murder. Jacob is the son of the First Assistant District Attorney, Andy Barber, the most senior ADA in the county and the man who is in charge of the case. Until it takes a toxic turn.

For those who like court-room action, this story will hook you from the outset. For those who like thrillers, there is a powerful narrative drive to keep you turning the pages. For those who like a compelling drama about how family relationships buckle under pressure, this cannot fail to satisfy. And for those who like their drama leavened with a little light relief, you will find sharp lines too:

She frowned, giving up. "There's no arguing with you. It's like running into a wall over and over again."
"We're not arguing. We're discussing."
"You're a lawyer; you don't know the difference. I'M arguing."

William Landay's dialogue strikes the ear as true (with the exception of Jacob's grandfather who, for me, failed to convince) and his writing is wonderful in a lucid "non-showy" way. I was thoroughly absorbed by this book and found it to be escapism of the highest order. 4.5 stars.
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By Brett H TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Defending Jacob is an absorbing book. A crime has been committed - the brutal murder of a young boy - followed by the investigation and then the court case and the aftermath. However, there are numerous additional dimensions to this story which make it quite an emotional roller coaster for the reader.

Andy Barber, the assistant DA, initially investigates the killing, but suspicion quickly falls on his own son, Jacob, who attended the same school as the dead boy. Barber tells the story from his own perspective and remains unwavering in his belief that his son is innocent, whatever the evidence. Unsurprisingly tensions are high within the Barber household and there are enormous strains in the relationship between Andy, his wife Laurie and Jacob.

The law in Massachusetts is that 14 year olds are tried for murder as adults, so Jacob is on the receiving end of a judicial system which does not pull any punches. It becomes clear that whatever the eventual outcome, things will never be the same again as the family, and in particular Jacob, will always be viewed with suspicion in the community and additionally the court case is financially ruinous. Unsavory aspects of Andy's family background surface which can potentially damage Jacob's case and which cause additional familial tensions.

There is huge shift in the story at the climax and the Grand Jury narrative, which is interspersed throughout the story then makes perfect sense. The author develops his characters very effectively and in particular we get under Andy's skin and understand his hopes and fears and come to appreciate that his blind faith in his son could end very badly.
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By adele on 27 April 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Publisher: Orion Books

ISBN 978-1-4091-1537-3

When the DAs son is accused of murder nothing in their family is going to be easy.

There is some evidence but it is all sketchy at the best.

Jacobs father believes implicitly that Jacob is not and could not be capable of this but his mum is not so absolute. She does not want to believe her son could commit murder but also feels that you can never completely know anybody even your own son.

The book follows Jacobs trial interspersed with flashback scenes of the lead up to the trial. It is very well written and accessible.

The characters come alive on the page. I found it very difficult not to cheat and skip to the end to find out the outcome because I so wanted Jacob to be innocent. I could relate in some ways to the characters and empathized with the parents almost impossible situation.

I just kept reading and reading, I could not put this book down. I was gripped and could not read fast enough. When I did reach the end there was an unexpected twist which I found disappointing - see what you think.

Highly recommended

Personal read 5/5

Group read 4/5 Only one main discussion point that I could see - would you feel the same as either of the parents about your son in a similar situation? This could develop into quite a lively debate.
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