Monday, September 3, 2012

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Defending Jacob was not the worst book I’ve ever read. This obviously isn’t a ringing endorsement, but I’m glad I read it because unlike most books it had a really unexpected, juicy and perfect ending!

Here’s the story line. Andy Barber, Assistant District Attorney of a non-descript community, tells the story of the stabbing death of a teen. A fingerprint is found on the dead teen. Schoolmates of the dead kid are questioned. Rumors spread on Facebook. All the evidence points to Andy’s son Jacob. Jacob is arrested. Barber is certain that, although there is a history of violence in his family, Jacob absolutely did not commit the murder. Jacob’s mother Laurie isn’t sure and (of course) blames herself.

The mystery in Defending Jacob is pretty well developed because you are never entirely sure whether Jacob is guilty or not. Landay (pictured below) played that part out quite well, and the story moves along at an acceptable pace. You won’t however read any passages that make your heart soar, or tear it out either.

One of the themes that I would have loved to see better developed was that perhaps Jacob had inherited a “murder gene.” Is there such a thing? Are there examples, any scientific evidence or studies? Something more to make that very fertile issue more believable would have been a welcome touch.

Also, Jacob just seemed lifeless. If he’d been a really nice guy, we would have had more reason to believe he was innocent. Or if he’d been a really malevolent character, we would have had more reason to believe he was guilty. Either way would have created some badly needed tension.  I cared less about non-descript Jacob than I did about his mother who was deliciously falling apart at the seams.

Defending Jacob is not a stunner, but is entertaining and worth the effort. Oh, and by the way, many of the reviews I read said that they hated the ending. So to each her own!

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