I was impressed with the well told story of District Attorney, Andy Barber, who helps defend his son accused of murder in “Defending Jacob.” Landay realistically captured the legal process in an enjoyable manner (as only a former D.A. can), while also focusing on the emotional horror Andy and his wife experience as they wonder if their son Jacob could be the murderer of his classmate, Ben Rifkin. Andy narrated the book is both a flashback and in present time during a grand jury hearing. This writing style worked exceptionally well for the plot, which came together beautifully in the last few pages, bringing with it shock and surprise.
Andy is the lead investigator on Ben’s murder and is responsible for who is questioned and how the investigation is handled. How he handles the investigation will later be called into question once Jacob is accused, and Andy is put on leave from the D.A.’s office. When facts surface that indicate Jacob murdered Ben, Andy uncharacteristically destroys evidence and stonewalls the investigation. As his family struggles to maintain a normal life through the trial, Andy must confront the demons of his past to set his son free. The themes of self-preservation and survival were examined when Andy and his wife were forced to confront that they may have raised a murderer.
One defense utilized by Jacob’s lawyers is that he had a genetic propensity for violence, just like his grandfather, who is currently incarcerated for murdering a young girl. Landay included just enough information to thicken the plot without consuming the book with the theme . I found the concept extremely interesting, especially given that one of my favorite movies is “The Bad Seed” – which deals with the same question. Landay ends the book by revealing whether Jacob truly was the murderer and whether he is predisposed to violence. How his parents respond to that truth was a creative conclusion.
I really loved this book! I’d recommend it to anyone who likes twists and turns of legal thrillers like, “The Lincoln Lawyer.” It is a thoughtful and intelligent legal story brimming with unique themes.