Jennifer F. (Saratoga, CA)
Fast paced, exciting thriller
Reminiscent of a John Grisham novel, William Landay's Defending Jacob kept me turning the pages late into the night. The characters are believable and the writing moves along, although the ending is a bit predictable.
Arden A. (Lady Lake, FL)
Can You Love Your Children Too Much
Jacob was a quiet 14 year old kid who did not go around with the “in” crowd. He didn't have a lot of friends; he was “bullied.” And his grandfather was a murderer. Is violence genetic? Does it skip generations? Or can it be suppressed, while lying latent, waiting for some provocation. Is there such a thing as a “murder gene?” What responsibilities lie with the parents when faced with the accusation that their child may have committed murder? All of these questions come into play in this absorbing, well-written novel, which story rotates between the transcript from a Grand Jury testimony and the prior events that took place place following a murder. It offers thought-provoking insights into marriage and parenthood, and dealing with very difficult circumstances, and it is an excellent read.
Freya H. (Phoenix, AZ)
I found it difficult to put this book down. Each time I tried, little questions kept niggling, thus many things were set aside until the last page was read. The characters were well developed, the plot engrossing, and the ending so thought provoking.
I would certainly recommend this book, and think interesting discussions could evolve in any Book Group.
Melanie B. (Piedmont, SC)
This is one of the best courtroom dramas I've read in quite awhile. Fast paced, energetic, touching and disturbing on more than one level. As the story unfurls, you're along for the ride as Jacob's father recalls events and the author does an amazing job evoking the shock, sorrow and suspicion surrounding the murder and the vastly different effects it has on several characters. The last few pages of this novel are absolutely stunning and I thought about the conclusion long after I finished the book.
Elly M. (Roswell, NM)
William Landay's "Defending Jacob" is a fast-paced, compelling novel of suspense and familial dynamics centered on an almost impossible situation to imagine. All characters were so well developed that they appeared in my mind's eye without effort. I had no trouble feeling the emotions of all and, thus, found myself stopping now and then to dwell upon what I had read. Not for long, however, as I was moved to continue the journey of this family's dilemma. Well written, it possessed the push-pull effect found in many good paintings. The ending left me dazed, but thoughtful ... and wondering. Could there be more?
I would definitely recommend this novel to friends and suggest that it would be an excellent book club choice. Lively discussion is sure to ensue.
avid (Springfield, IL)
Stay to the end
This was described as a "courtroom thriller". I would call it a courtroom drama. It languishes significantly, then presents a satisfying twist at the end to redeem itself. Like Picoult's "Nineteen Minutes", "Defending Jacob" provokes a parent's introspection. How would it feel as a parent to experience this particular set of circumstances? Could this be my child? How would I/my teen respond? If you're going to read this book, you have to commit to finishing it.
Robert F. (Charleston, IL)
I like mysteries, particularly police procedurals, more than so-called thrillers, but this novel is an engaging mix of both. It's very readable: the plot has several twists, but they're not overly complicated or contrived. The story is driven by the narrator, who is brash and intelligent and who has an unusual backstory, which establishes his motives and provides some much-needed sympathy. The idea that secrets come back to bite you is not all that original, but Landay handles that meme in a credible way. I also liked the use of the transcripts from the grand jury; these excerpts furnished an effective counterbalance to the 1st-person narration and moved the story along quickly. I just wish the wife (Laurie) had been given more depth and had somehow been able to speak for herself.