Is Jacob guilty of murder? Jee reviews ‘Defending Jacob’ by William Landay #SPOILERFREE #bookreview #defendingjacob #legalthriller #TVseries #courtroomdrama #family #parenting #fiction


Title/Author: Defending Jacob by William Landay

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Pages: 432

In a nutshell (Publisher):


Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney for two decades. He is respected. Admired in the courtroom. Happy at home with the loves of his life: his wife, Laurie, and their teenage son, Jacob. Then Andy’s quiet suburb is stunned by a shocking crime: a young boy stabbed to death in a leafy park. And an even greater shock: The accused is Andy’s own son—shy, awkward, mysterious Jacob.

Andy believes in Jacob’s innocence. Any parent would. But the pressure mounts. Damning evidence. Doubt. A faltering marriage. The neighbors’ contempt. A murder trial that threatens to obliterate Andy’s family. It is the ultimate test for any parent: How far would you go to protect your child? It is a test of devotion. A test of how well a parent can know a child. For Andy Barber, a man with an iron will and a dark secret, it is a test of guilt and innocence in the deepest sense.

How far would you go?

My verdict: Overall a decent legal thriller, although it wasn’t up to my expectations, especially not after having read some of Grisham’s books before.

My thoughts:

“So I got on with the business of lawyering away at the evidence. Minimizing it. Defending Jacob.”

Defending Jacob, William Landay

I love legal thrillers, all thanks to my dad whose shelf was filled with John Grisham’s books. It has been awhile since I’ve read a legal thriller and somehow ‘Defending Jacob’ kept appearing in my social media, probably because of its miniseries. Since this book has been sitting on my TBR e-shelf for really long, I decided to give it a go, and yes, I’m extremely late to the party.

Anyway, overall, quite a good, decent story. It started strong, dragged a little in the middle, and picked up towards the end. That said, I’m still struggling a little with the ending. I did like that there weren’t really any closure on the cases, but without giving too much away, I still find Laurie’s part at the end hard to believe.

Ben Rifkin, a 14 year old boy, was murdered. Andy Barber, an assistant district attorney of Newton, Massachusetts, took up the case. But there was a problem – a conflict of interest, when investigations soon led to a suspect, Jacob, Andy’s son. How could it be possible? His sweet, innocent, quiet son, who mostly kept to himself, be a murderer? No parents would ever believe that. Especially not when the son hardly ever caused any trouble in school. Not that he and his wife, Laurie, knew of, at least, not until this case.

This case blew open a can of worms. Andy had dark secrets of his own, one that he had kept from his family throughout the years, and Jacob wasn’t the kid he thought he was in school. Laurie, his wife, who was caught in the middle of it all, suddenly was faced with more than she could handle. She started questioning herself as a mother and a wife. Who was this man she had married? Had she been a good parent? Was she not involved enough with Jacob’s life? Was her husband being ignorant and stubborn in defending Jacob? Was he merely doing his job as a father in protecting him or did he really believe that Jacob was innocent?

First the strong points. I love the dialogues, which I thought, was the author’s strength and got the story going. One can easily differentiate who was talking by merely reading the dialogue, and I found this really rare in novels.

I also liked the transcript style that was woven into the narrative with Andy as a witness. In fact, it was these parts that I felt the novel came alive. There were only two characters that I found made this novel stood out. Believe or not, they were the ‘bad’ guys – Logiudice (I don’t even like his name! What a mouthful) who got my blood all riled up whenever he spoke and bad Bill Barber, yes Bill Barber, Andy’s dad, Jacob’s grandfather. He, I found, was one of the more interesting characters and one that should’ve been given more presence in the book.

It was somewhere in the middle, I lost interest. I just felt that the story was stalled. Yes, there were the courtroom dramas and Logiudice made his appearances, but something still felt missing. And there was a lot about how the family was suffering, trying to come to terms with the fact that they were no longer the family that the community looked up to. I think it was just the way it was told or executed, that made me lose interest.

Thankfully, the pace picked up when my kindle was showing about 70% or so, when they were about to get the verdict. Yes, when I start losing interest I’d start looking at my kindle to know how much more to get to the end.

I’d say this was quite a decent legal thriller. I loved the fierce love Andy showed Jacob. At times, I was a little frustrated by how much he seemed to choose to ignore the fact that Jacob might have an ugly side, that he chose not to accept whatever Laurie was telling him. But I can’t blame him. After all, love is blind right? Or was it because of his ego, that kept him wanting to prove himself right, that Jacob was innocent?

This book made me ask, what does it mean to love our child(ren)? How much would we do and how far would we go to protect them?

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve not seen the miniseries, but I think, in the hands of a good producer and director, it might turn out better than the book.

Would I recommend this? Read it if you’re curious about the buzz it has gotten, if not, skip it.

Have you read the book? Seen the miniseries? What did you think? If you haven’t, do you intend to?

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Rosie Amber says:

    I think it can be hard to find a new angle in a popular genre, shame it wasn’t quite good enough for you, Jee.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      I was looking forward to really enjoying it 😦 But it’s ok. It was still quite good, just maybe I set the bar a little too high.


  2. nsfordwriter says:

    Great review, Jee! Sounds like one to try for fans of legal thrillers but not one to single out if they are not your usual genre.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Yeah I agree! Have you read any really good legal thrillers, NS? Would love your recs!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. nsfordwriter says:

        I’m not sure if it’s a legal thriller but He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly had a legal element. The Secretary by Renee Knight did too and was interesting in some respects but didn’t love it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. stargazer says:

    I like the premise. It must be a parent’s worst nightmare to see their child accused of a serious crime. But books like this are meant to keep you spellbound all the way through. I always see it as a very bad sign, if I start to check how much is left. 😆 Think I will give this one a miss, even if I’ve had good experiences with some of the author’s other books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      I think maybe I set my bar too high? Hahah Yeah, I don’t think you’d miss much if you skip this 🙂 Have you read any good legal thrillers? Any recommendations?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. stargazer says:

        No, I haven’t really read any legal thrillers recently. Will let you know, if I come across a good one. Guess you do set the bar high if you grew up with John Grisham’s books. He really is the king of this genre.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Sorry you lost interest somewhere in the middle. I just read a book, a thriller, a short while ago and felt the same way. Luckily it turned much better right at the end, but it didn’t garner my full liking of the book afterall. I also read several John Grisham books years ago and loved them. My first book ever read in English was THE FIRM 🙂
    Great and honest review post, Jee! 💫

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Oh mine was The Firm too! My dad recommended it to me 🙂 Thank you, Scarlett!


  5. Sure does sound like it could’ve been and that you’ve seen better! Glad it wasn’t completely bad though. Hopefully, the next one will be as good as a Grisham novel! Great review, Jee! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Lashaan!

      Liked by 1 person

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