Customer Reviews


 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping
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...
Published on 27 April 2012 by adele

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Psycho thriller- court room drama
This is an enjoyable thriller charting the experience of the father Jacob, who is accused of murdering another kid at this High School. The reason people are reading it is its use of the "killer gene" argument. One of the key questions in the narrative is whether the violent history of the father's family could be used in the prosecution of his son, which it...
Published 11 months ago by Jasonín d'Asturies


‹ Previous | 1 213 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, 27 April 2012
By 
adele (stamford, uk) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Defending Jacob (Hardcover)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best from this author to date, 19 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Defending Jacob (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Cut Above, 26 Mar. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Defending Jacob (Kindle Edition)
This is an excellent crime novel. To call it a legal thriller would diminish it, I think. There is law and a court case at its centre, but it is not one of those books in which the main information or solution comes out of the trial itself and the clash between attorneys. The trial is just one element among others which include the crime, obviously, the characters, the genetic disposition or not towards violence, the small town and families caught up in the crime, and the ambushing twists and turns of the story.
It was the trial and police investigation material that I found the least convincing, in fact, but that may be the point: that we should distrust everything to do with the law.
William Landay writes with authority and ease and you feel you are in hands of a confident and very able writer, who goes down deeper into character than many other crime-writers.
I found the pace to be just right. The need to find out the truth pulled me along, but didn't rush me through aspects of character development - particularly in Laurie, the wife - that were unexpected, and thoughtfully done.
Although it is an utterly different book, it is reminiscent of some of the themes in "We need to talk about Kevin." The child's heart. The adolescent heart. The nature of the heart.
I would thoroughly recommend this powerful and intelligent book, whose story stays with you after the book is finished. And stays.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Caught up in a court-room drama., 11 Feb. 2013
By 
Sue Kichenside - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Defending Jacob (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and Complex Story, 2 Feb. 2012
By 
Brett H (Brighton) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Defending Jacob (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (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. Jacob too is a complex character who gives little away about himself even to his family and there are strong suggestions that perhaps there may be more to his problems than just those of a normal, moody adolescent.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book which I read through quickly and would recommend it to others. It is complex and works on many levels. It is an excellent legal thriller, the exploration of the inter personal relationships between the main characters adds a whole dimension and there is a great twist in the tail.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much more than a thrilling crime novel, 19 Feb. 2012
By 
Champollion (Shropshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Defending Jacob (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In this compelling thriller, part legal and courtroom and part family emotional melodrama and social examination within the dynamics and levels of an American community , there lies a number of interesting lessons in ethics, morality, justice, loyalty and sacrifice. Although the novel is based outside Boston, the geography, in itself, does not impact upon the exploration of these important themes.

Andy Barber is an experienced Assistant District Attorney in the suburbs of Massachusetts, with a strong family, wife Laurie and son Jacob. A vicious crime occurs, and his son is charged with the murder of a fellow student. The consequences are a tidal wave of events which engulf him and his family. How far would you go to protect everything in life?

The first person narrative drives along a plot which is not short on twists and turns and it all makes for an engaging read. A very different book in comparison to William Landay's other work, the first of which "Mission Flats" was given the Dagger award, "Defending Jacob," is a novel which could be debated by student lawyers and social workers in the amount of moral dilemmas and questions it presents. It makes the reader think.

I recommend this highly readable and expertly constructed book which succeeds on all levels.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars A cut above the average court room thriller, 23 May 2014
By 
Joanne Sheppard (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Defending Jacob (Paperback)
Generally speaking I don’t tend to be a great fan of that very American of genres, the legal thriller, but I made an exception for Defending Jacob by former lawyer William Landay, partly because of the great reviews and partly because I have a morbid fascination with murderous children. I’m glad I did – it’s a well-constructed, engrossing read with a strong cast of realistic, cleverly observed characters.

The child in question is the Jacob of the novel’s title, a 14-year-old boy accused of stabbing a classmate to death on his way to school. Jacob is the son of Andy Barber, a senior prosecutor at the district attorney’s office, who is not only convinced that his outwardly normal child could not possibly have committed murder, but also thinks he has an idea who the culprit could be: a local paedophile with a string of – albeit relatively minor – sexual assault convictions for offences against young boys. The rest of the novel deals with the court case itself, and the devastating effect such a situation has on the Barbers’ family life.

If this were all there was to Defending Jacob, it would be an engaging but straightforward courtroom drama, the stuff of made-for-tv movies. Fortunately, the story, and the characters, are much more complex than that. Regardless of guilt or innocence, Jacob, may not be the affable average kid his parents believed him to be, and there’s no shortage of skeletons in Andy’s cupboard either, secrets of which even his wife is unaware. Intriguingly, the narrative is inter-cut with a court transcript in which Andy, not Jacob, has been brought before the grand jury. Is Andy as reliable a narrator as we might expect a public prosecutor and a charming, upstanding member of a middle-class smalltown New England community to be?

Defending Jacob asks all sorts of questions of its characters, and its readers. As the evidence builds against Jacob, will even his parents start to question his testimony, and how could those nagging doubts affect their family relationships? How far might a parent go to protect their child from a prison sentence? There are also interesting legal questions about the possibility of a ‘murder gene’ – essentially, we’re asked to wonder if there is really such a thing as a ‘bad seed’. This is a book that will force you to confront some of your own prejudices and question what your own motives might be if your own family found itself in a similarly nightmarish situation.

As you might expect from a writer with a legal background, William Landay’s prose is strong on precision and detail. This might infuriate those who are looking for faster, pacier plot progress, but I enjoyed the meticulousness with which Landay builds his story, and was certainly never bored. Every character sketch (of which there are many) is pin-sharp, and Andy’s digressions on the subject of his family, colleagues and neighbours are astute and revealing. Despite the narrator’s inherent unreliability – he tells his story with all the cunning you’d expect from a skilled court room lawyer, full of carefully delayed revelations and selective omissions – it’s hard not to feel sympathy and a degree of affinity with him.

If I have a complaint, it’s that the main twist in the tale (it’s one of many) feels a little hastily executed, largely because it seems out of step with the rest of the book, which proceeds at a steady, measured pace, and makes the novel’s conclusion slightly abrupt. I also found some of the court room scenes slightly hard to follow at times, although that’s almost certainly down to my lack of knowledge of the US legal system in comparison to ours.

Beside that, however, it’s hard to find much fault with Defending Jacob. My attention was held from the first page to the last.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Born innocent, 31 Dec. 2013
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Defending Jacob (Paperback)
Defending Jacob is a complex and readable crime novel.

Broadly, Andy Barber is the First Assistant DA in a small town in Massachusetts. He has been tasked with leading the investigation into the death of a teenage boy, Ben Rifkin, found stabbed in a local park. As the investigation progresses, the evidence starts to point to Andy's son Jacob. Andy has no doubt of Jacob's innocence and when he is suspended from the DA's office to avoid any conflict of interest, he sets about seeking the best defence that money can buy.

The novel is narrated by Andy in a retrospective fashion, allowing various comments about forthcoming developments. You know the sort of thing: 'little did we know this would be the last time we felt so relaxed', or 'had I known then what I now know, I might have done things differently'. This starts out sounding conversational, but leads to some unnecessary complications as the use of tenses gives away a major part of the denouement. But perhaps William Landay wanted to give this away. After all, it is a novel about people and relationships rather than being a strich whodunnit. The narration is also interspersed with transcript of a court cross-examination of Andy Barber, conducted by his erstwhile protege Neal Logiudice. Part of the intrigue is in working out just what the cross examination is all about - and allows an interesting counterpoint between the account on the record and the account we are reading.

The novel addresses Themes with a capital T. These include honesty, loyalty, conflict between personal and professional interests, delusion, whether ends justify means, nature versus nurture, etc. The list goes on. It is to the author's credit that the many themes feel engaging rather than affected. The narrative style is light enough to bear the heavy messages and the focus on family relationships - especially the triangle between Ben and his parents - grounds any general themes in a very personal context. Aside from this, there is the complexity of the relationships between the schoolkids, played out in both the real world and online. This works well.

Where the novel fails, however, is the ending. There are three or four superfluous chapters that detract rather than add to the authenticity. Ideally, the novel would have stopped in the carpark outside the courtroom, leaving the intelligent reader to fill in gaps or make inferences. Instead, William Landay spells it out to us in idiot-proof language just in case the reader didn't get the twist. It feels so out of step with the rest of the novel which could easily have borne some residual ambiguity.

On balance, this is a good read with plenty of tension and intrigue. It is worth reading, but the let-down at the end seems such a shame.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent and thought provoking read, 15 July 2013
This review is from: Defending Jacob (Paperback)
If you have ever found yourself asking "why do people do what they do?", "what shapes us?", or "what encourages good behaviour in some and bad in others?" then this book is for you.

Andy Barber is a trusted senior prosecutor, the District Attorney's right hand and master trial lawyer. When a teenage boy is found dead in the woods near Barber's home, he takes on the investigation, as he has countless homicides before. Then in a frightening turn of events, Barber's own 14-year-old son, Jacob, is accused of the murder. The boy insists he is innocent, and Barber rallies to his son's defense - as any father would, he thinks, as any father must. But defending Jacob exacts a terrible price; friends start to fall away. Jacob's classmates start to incriminate. and Barber's marriage begins to crumble as his wife Laurie buckles under the relentless pressure of suspicion. Finally, as Jacob's trial intensifies, Barber faces a trial of his own, in which he is forced to confront his own secret history, a past he thought he'd buried long ago.

This book is about an embattled family in crisis - a suspenseful, character-driven mystery/thriller that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control.

The ability to create original and surprising plots is not evenly bestowed on writers. Far too often readers see what's coming a mile away. But I devoured this novel; it is one that provided an ending as brilliant and as shocking as any I can recall. The ending is utterly unpredictable, and one that is all too real, all too painful, all too haunting.

Defending Jacob is an intelligent and thought provoking read that raises incredibly difficult and complex issues. The pace is excellent and the points made on each side of the case will keep your brain churning long after you've finished reading.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars `In the end, every child leads his own life, largely out of his parents' sight.', 3 Jan. 2013
By 
L. H. Healy "Books are life, beauty and truth." (Cambridgeshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Defending Jacob (Hardcover)
This is a stunning, well-written and compelling read. Andrew Barber is the assistant district attorney investigating the murder of fourteen-year-old Ben Rifkin in Newton, a relatively nice community with low crime. When his own son Jacob becomes the prime suspect, Andy is taken off the case, and experiences the legal system from the other side with his son as the defendant; he is torn between wanting to know the truth and needing to protect his son.

`Suspicion, once it started to corkscrew itself into my thoughts, made me experience everything twice: as questing prosecutor and as anxious father, one after the truth, the other terrified of it.'

Recounted by Andy in the first person throughout, and including excerpts from Grand Jury testimony, it's a cleverly structured narrative in four parts, incorporating modern day social media by including facebook conversations. Threaded throughout the story there is also an intriguing ongoing encounter between Andy and his former colleague at the DA's office, Neal Logiudice, who takes over the role of prosecutor.

It is Andy's perspective we see throughout. His thoughts and opinions colour the view of events that we are reading. The story is both a tense thriller and also a family drama, bringing into play the murky past of Andy's father and the two generations of males before him, leading to the discussion of a potential `murder gene' being present.

I really enjoyed this cracking thriller; it kept me guessing, it has an excellent pace to the story all the way through, and a surprising and unexpected ending. It makes you think about how much any parent can really know their child, and about the limitations of the legal system. Recommended.

(originally reviewed for lovereading.co.uk)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 213 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Defending Jacob
Defending Jacob by William Landay (Hardcover - 15 Mar. 2012)
Used & New from: £0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews