Andy Barber’s job is to put killers behind bars. And when a boy from his son Jacob’s school is found stabbed to death, Andy is doubly determined to find and prosecute the perpetrator. Until a crucial piece of evidence turns up linking Jacob to the murder. And suddenly Andy and his wife find their son accused of being a cold-blooded killer. In the face of every parent’s worst nightmare, they will do anything to defend their child. Because, deep down, they know him better than anyone. Don’t they?
This is William Landay’s third novel, the first two, Mission Flats and The Strangler both won awards and I’d been keen to read this for a while since reading another blogger’s compelling review.
Andy is is Jacob’s, the accused’s father but also the town’s Assistant District Attorney and the story is told from his point of view. When Jacob becomes a suspect and later arrested Andy is taken off the case to ensure there’s no cover up, he and his wife Laurie then face opposition and resentment from the people they once considered good friends.
The book does go through the legal processes of investigation, arrests, the jury selection, the trial etc but does feature heavily on the psychological and emotional impact the case and the trial has on the parents and those around Jacob rather than Jacob himself. From reading the first few pages, the title and the blurb I thought I knew where this book was going and at page 50 thought that too much had been given away.
Throughout the book there is court transcript of Andy giving evidence which confused me, as it was obviously set some time in the future but you don’t know why at the time and doesn’t become clear until the last chapter or so. I don’t know why but this book just didn’t grab me like other legal dramas / thrillers that I’ve read.
This book reminded me of Jodi Picoult’s House Rules which also looks at the impact on a family when a child is accused of a murder and also raises some moralistic questions, such as just how far would you go to protect your child against all the odds, nature vs nurture and is there such a thing as a ‘murder gene’?
This isn’t a book with a big courtroom battle which is what I was expecting so I found myself getting a bit bored in the middle, however it does have one of the best twists of an ending. Whilst reading the last 5 or 6 chapters I just couldn’t put it down, it’s a shame for me that I didn’t get that all the way through, but I guess it was all the leading up that made it the ending it was. I was only going to give this 3 of 5 stars on Goodreads but went to 4 purely for the ending which was quite something.
Read if you like legal thrillers or a fan of Landay (not quite Grisham enough for me).
Available on Amazon as Kindle or paperback versions Defending Jacob