Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book Review: Defending Jacob by William Landay

I am not normally a big reader of thrillers, but legal thrillers I like better than non-legal thrillers as they tend to be a lot more cerebral (and have fewer chase scenes.) This book was highly recommended and well reviewed all of last year and when it finally came out in paperback, I jumped at it. And when I was looking for a really captivating and fast read, this seemed natural.

And it was! It was a very fast read for its length (over 450 pages) and it was easy to keep turning the pages. Basically, not to give away anything that isn't on the back cover (or even in the title), the main character, Andy, his son Jacob is accused of murder and Andy, formerly the ADA (up until this exact case, when he's placed on leave), defends his son. (Not in court; he's not crazy. He hires a top-notch lawyer.) And as much as the book is about the cases, it's more about the family and what would you do in their shoes? Do you believe Jacob? No matter what? Do you take your eye off the ball of the trial for a minute to rescue your drowning wife? Your skidding marriage? Do you accept that she might have doubts? What do those doubts say about her, about you, about your son?

The majority of the book is told in first person so you really walk in Andy's shoes and see everything from his eyes, but his wife, Laurie, does give some perspective.

The ending is a bit of a twist, and parts of the book are told through court testimony which is a neat trick to obscure the twist (if those parts were also being told in first person from Andy's point of view, the author couldn't have left the big reveal for the end.) It's effective and I also liked that those parts were told from a point in the future so that Andy knew more than we did, and yet Mr. Landay neither gave away too much nor did it feel convoluted that he was trying not to. It was exciting, emotional, and has so many interesting twists that I'm going to recommend it for my book club.

I bought this book at the Southern Festival of Books, from Parnassus Bookstore.

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