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Defending Jacob: A Novel [Hardcover]

William Landay
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 31 2012 Editors' Pick: Best Books of 2012

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.

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Praise for Defending Jacob
“William Landay makes bold use of his genuine storytelling gift, his amazing ability to craft believable dialogue, and, above all, his extraordinary understanding of what it means to be a husband and father to present us with an unforgettable tale of an ordinary marriage and family in crisis. On the surface this novel reads like a first-rate thriller, but at its heart it’s a love story.  It’s the story of a man who adores his wife and child, but more than that, it’s a novel that describes the fine edge between love and madness, and the lies we sometimes tell ourselves. Landay has proven himself to be an extraordinary writer, and Defending Jacob is an amazing novel. Do yourself a favor and read it. It’s that good.”—Nicholas Sparks
Defending Jacob is smart, sophisticated, and suspenseful—capturing both the complexity and stunning fragility of family life.”—Lee Child
“Powerful . . . leaves you gasping breathlessly at each shocking revelation.”—Lisa Gardner
“A page-turning, stomach-clenching exploration of family.”—Chevy Stevens
“A stunning novel that will be compared to classic courtroom thrillers like Presumed Innocent and Anatomy of a Murder.”—Phillip Margolin
“So well-written, every character so movingly and convincingly drawn, the plot so utterly enthralling . . . Defending Jacob is absolutely stellar, first-rate fiction—human, sensitive, and gripping in the extreme.”—Lisa Unger

“More than a terrific legal thrill ride, Defending Jacob is an unflinching appraisal of the darkest, most poignant consequences of the love that binds, and blinds, families. It’s one of those rare books that call for contemplation and insight along with every breathtaking surprise.”—Stephen White
“Landay spins a tale of such complexity and emotion that you don’t even realize you’re spiraling deep into his world until he spits you out at his shocking, shattering conclusion.”—Carla Buckley
“Sensational . . . one of the best books of the year.”—John Lutz
“A novel like this comes along maybe once a decade . . . a tour de force, a full-blooded legal thriller about a murder trial and the way it shatters a family. With its relentless suspense, its mesmerizing prose, and a shocking twist at the end, it’s every bit as good as Scott Turow’s great Presumed Innocent. But it’s also something more: an indelible domestic drama that calls to mind Ordinary People and We Need to Talk About Kevin. A spellbinding and unforgettable literary crime novel.”—Joseph Finder
 “Powerful, disturbing, complex, and gripping, Defending Jacob is impossible to put down. William Landay is a stunning talent.”—Carla Neggers
“Riveting, suspenseful, and emotionally searing.”—Linwood Barclay
“Brilliantly conceived . . . combines a harrowing family drama with riveting courtroom scenes that make readers feel they are actually witnessing the trial unfold.”—Stephen Frey

“A carefully plotted and precisely written thriller about a family put to the ultimate test . . . Defending Jacob is bound to enthrall.”—Thomas H. Cook

“Harrowing . . . This searing narrative proves the ancient Greek tragedians were right: the worst punishment is not death but living with what you—knowingly or unknowingly—have done.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[Landay] reaches a new level of excellence with this riveting, knock-your-socks-off legal thriller.  With its masterfully crafted characterizations and dialogue, emotional depth, and frightening implications, the novel rivals the best of Scott Turow and John Grisham.  Don’t miss it.”  —Booklist (starred review)

“Gripping, emotional murder saga….The shocking ending will have readers pulling up their bedcovers to ward off the haunting chill.”  —People Magazine (three of four stars)
“Landay has written a legal thriller that’s comparable to classics such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent….Tragic and shocking, Defending Jacob is sure to generate buzz.”  —Associated Press
“Do you like a mystery with a good twist at the end?  How about one with the literary equivalent of skating’s triple axel?....Hang on for that shocking and yet believable ending—with a triple twist you won’t see coming.”  —Portland Oregonian
“Like John Grisham and Scott Turow, Landay is a lawyer with a solid grasp of how to use courtroom scenes to advance his jigsaw-puzzle story….with a grabby premise and careful plotting, he keeps you turning the pages through the shocking gut-punch of an ending.”  —Entertainment Weekly
“[Landay] reaches a new level of excellence with this riveting, knock-your-socks-off legal thriller.  With its masterfully crafted characterizations and dialogue, emotional depth, and frightening implications, the novel rivals the best of Scott Turow and John Grisham.  Don’t miss it.”  —Booklist (starred review)

“Not since the novels of Scott Turow has a crime thriller—and 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.”  —Daily Mail

“Even with unexpected twists and turns, the two narratives interlock like the teeth of a zipper, building to a tough and unflinching finale.  This novel has major motion picture written all over it.”  —The Boston Globe

“Landay turns out to be creating a clever blend of legal thriller and issue-oriented family implosion…nothing is predictable.  All bets are off.”  —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Defending Jacob is a novel that comes to you out of the blue and manages to keep you reading feverishly until the whole thing is completed….Landay has written a stunning novel and it is one that should draw attention to the possibilities it raises.  In the next few weeks, Defending Jacob is the novel most readers are going to be discussing.”  —Huffington Post

“The hype is justified…exceptionally serious, suspenseful, engrossing.”  —The Washington Post

About the Author

William Landay is the author of The Strangler, a Los Angeles Times Favorite Crime Book of the Year, and Mission Flats, winner of the Creasey Memorial Dagger Award for Best First Crime Novel and a Barry Award nominee. A former district attorney who holds degrees from Yale and Boston College Law School, Landay lives in Boston, where he is at work on his next novel of suspense.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read Feb. 11 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very good story, and not at all predictable.....keeps you guessing until the very end....and even then your surprised. Masterful writing, amazing characters.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Real page turner May 14 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
What a great read. Hated to put it down right to the last page. Can't wait to read his next thriller.
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5.0 out of 5 stars being a parent is tough love March 2 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Intelligent, heart-stopping, powerful, engaging.

So is your son a murderer or just a bit different?

The world has condemned him already.

What do you do? Nature or nurture - what shapes our ends?

This book takes you through the travels and travails of a scared family. If you love legal stories, enjoy detecting, beg for stories that are basically enthrall ing conversations, then this is THE book for you. Enjoy!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Touching Feb. 4 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
This story is plain brilliant, with deep and moving characters, lofty ideas and an insight that gets my full respect.The descriptions are vivid, the setting wide and varied, and William Landlay has a good sense of things and knowledge. The connections made between Jacob and Andy Barber, his father, are well observed. The twists and interconnections in the story also reminds me of Triple Agent Double Cross.The story gripped me all the way to the end, made explosive by the final twist in the story.
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2.0 out of 5 stars At a Loss Jan. 9 2014
By Jeffrey Swystun TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
It is one of those times where I am completely shocked by a novel's reviews and success. This book was a contrived and reductive mess. The pacing and structure were plotted like a made-for-tv-movie. It aspires to be a suspenseful outing combining the styles of Turow and Picoult but falls far short. To be fair, I did enjoy a few nuggets including Landay's commentary on teenagers and parenting including these bon mots:

“The interior of a teenager’s mind is an endless war between Stupid and Clever.”

“At some point as adults we cease to be our parents' children and we become our children's parents instead.”

"I don't have a parenting style. I'm just making it up as I go."

He also makes a few good runs at commercialism including a solid jab at the "elaborate pretense" that is Whole Foods pretending it "was something other than a luxury store." Landay obviously loves storytelling as he injects references to it and building narratives throughout the book, “We are pattern-seeking, storytelling animals, and have been since we began drawing on cave walls.”

It is just a shame that this is not a well-told tale. The family at the story's centre is never fleshed out and they do not endear or prompt any connection. Jacob could have been an incredible character. Instead he was impenetrable, conveniently masked behind a blanket diagnosis of narcissism. The wife was little more than a caricature and the father qualified for stupid villain-status.

Unlike the wildly popular but equally improbable, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, this thriller never gelled or compelled. It was frustrating right up to and including the abrupt ending which I am not sure was a literary device or an expression of the author’s own disappointment with the story. I remain bewildered at the praise it has received.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One family's tragedy Oct. 3 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
While reading this book I kept thinking of so many families who experience a tragedy exactly like this How many times have I read about a son like this in the same situaton and the words : He was such a nice and quied child. This is a book difficult to put down.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing read June 11 2013
By Burchy
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I started this thinking I would read a few chapters a day and then found myself barreling through it. It's the type of book which sneaks up on you. It is not for faint of heart, though.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing June 8 2013
By Joan
Format:Kindle Edition
A quick read. Engaging and well written. Very disturbing to explore what makes us into the adults we become. Nature vs nurture on steroids.
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