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DEFENDING JACOB by William Landay Kirkus Star


by William Landay

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-34422-7
Publisher: Delacorte

Landay does the seemingly impossible by coming up with a new wrinkle in the crowded subgenre of courtroom thrillers.

Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber is called to a gruesome crime scene after Ben Rifkin, a 14-year-old boy, has been brutally stabbed in a city park. One suspect seems likely, a pedophile who lives nearby and is known to frequent the park, but suspicion turns quickly to another, much more unlikely, suspect—Andy’s son Jacob, one of Ben’s classmates. It seems Ben was not the paragon of virtue he was made out to be, for he had a mean streak and had been harassing Jacob...but is this a sufficient motive for a 14-year-old to commit murder? Some of Jacob’s fellow students post messages on Facebook suggesting he’s guilty of the crime, and Jacob also admits to having shown a “cool” knife to his friends. When Andy finds the knife, he quickly disposes of it, but even he’s not sure if he does this because he suspects his son is innocent or because he suspects his son is guilty. Complicating the family dynamic is Laurie, Jacob’s mother, who’s at least half convinced that her son might indeed be capable of such a heinous act—and it turns out Andy has concealed his own past from Laurie because both his father and grandfather have been murderers, and he fears he may have both inherited and passed down to Jacob a gene associated with aggressive behavior in males.

Landay is yet another lawyer-turned-writer, and it’s inevitable that he’ll be compared to Scott Turow, but this novel succeeds on its own merits.