Defending Jacob

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Defending Jacob

by William Landay

May 2016

Oh boy! I have a love/hate relationship with this book. I loved the writing and the whole premise . . . Landay is brilliant. However (spoiler), you’re left wondering if Jacob is innocent or guilty at the end – what?! Gahh! Very annoying, and yet, I can’t say anything against it because it was brilliant. Thank you to my book club for suggesting this one.

The story is narrated by Andrew Barber, a DA in Massachusetts, living with his wife, Laurie, and 14 year old son, Jacob. Andrew has just picked up a murder case in his town. A school mate of Jacob’s is found stabbed to death in the woods leading to the school. There is at first no clear suspect, except one man, whom they can’t pin down. All of a sudden, rumors begin, saying that Jacob is the one who murdered the boy. Andrew gets taken off the case, but that doesn’t stop his insatiable drive to defend his son, whom he has no doubts is innocent. From there, you follow Jacob’s trial and aftermath. Andrew’s perspective never waivers – Jacob is innocent. However, there are piles of circumstantial evidence that points to Jacob as the killer. But it is solely circumstantial.

Spoiler for the rest of the plot and ending. 😉 Some of the evidence includes Jacob’s thumb print on the boy’s jacket, the boy (Ben) was bullying Jacob, Jacob reads disturbing stories about torture and may have written a story of Ben’s death from the point of view of the murderer, he is a loner who has a bit of a violent past, he owns a knife that matches the stab wounds, and he could have been at the murder scene. Another plot line is Andrew’s family history: he comes from a line of violent murderers, including his father who is in jail. While Jacob is on trial, before a verdict can be made, the original suspect is found dead with a suicide note and a full confession (it’s implied that Andrew’s father had a “fixer” take care of things for Jacob). Jacob is free, and the family tries to settle into a new normal. They decide to get away and book a trip to a Jamaican resort. There, Andrew and Laurie rekindle a relationship that was disrupted by the trial and the fact that Andrew didn’t tell Laurie about his violent past until the trial began. All is going well and Jacob even gets a girlfriend. Then one day his girlfriend goes missing, only to be found weeks later washed up onshore. Once again, it looks like Jacob might have done it. He often went off alone with her and the day she went missing, he had splatters (likely blood) on his shorts. They all return home, shattered, even though Jacob was never accused. Super Spoiler: in the end, Andrew never loses faith in his son and never even entertains the possibility of his son being a murderer. However, Laurie does at least entertain the possibility and ultimately decides on her own that Jacob is a killer. She takes it into her own hands and purposely drives herself and Jacob into a bridge support, killing him and landing herself in the hospital. Andrew is a witness in her trial, and his retelling of these events is how the book ends. And that is seriously how it ends. My jaw literally was on the floor when I didn’t have any more pages to read. I still don’t know how to process it. Reading the book from Andrew’s perspective, I really believed Jacob was innocent, but looking back after finishing, I have serious doubts.

Has anyone else read this one? I’d love to know your perspective as to whether Jacob was innocent or guilty! 🙂

Summing it up: I absolutely recommend this book! It was a quick, intense, brilliant read.

All the best, Abbey

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