Defending Jacob (Landay)

Defending Jacob
William Landay, 2012
Random House
432 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780385344227 


Summary
Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob.

But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student. Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father.

Yet as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.

Award-winning author William Landay has written the consummate novel of an embattled family in crisis—a suspenseful, character-driven mystery that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—1963
Where—Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Education—B.A., Yale University; J.D. Boston
   College
Awards—New Blood Dagger by British Crime
   Writers Assn.
Currently—lives in Boston, Massachusetts


William Landay is an American novelist, whose novel, Mission Flats, was awarded the 2003 John Creasey Dagger (now called the New Blood Dagger) as the best debut crime novel of 2003 by the British Crime Writers Association. His second novel, The Strangler, was shortlisted for the Strand Magazine Critics Award as the best crime novel of 2007.

Landay graduated from Yale University and Boston College Law School. Prior to becoming a writer, he served for eight years as an Assistant District Attorney in Middlesex County, Massachusetts. (From Wikipedia.)



Book Reviews
Andy Barber, a respected First Assistant DA who lives in Newton, Mass., with his gentle wife, Laurie, and their 14-year-old son, Jacob, must face the unthinkable in Dagger Award–winner Landay’s harrowing third suspense novel. When Ben Rifkin, Jacob’s classmate, is found stabbed to death in the woods, Internet accusations and incontrovertible evidence point to big, handsome Jacob. Andy’s prosecutorial gut insists a child molester is the real killer, but as Jacob’s trial proceeds and Andy’s marriage crumbles under the forced revelation of old secrets, horror builds on horror toward a breathtakingly brutal outcome. Landay (The Strangler), a former DA, mixes gritty court reporting with Andy’s painful confrontation with himself, forcing readers willy-nilly to realize the end is never the end when, as Landay claims, the line between truth and justice has become so indistinct as to appear imaginary. This searing narrative proves the ancient Greek tragedians were right: the worst punishment is not death but living with what you—knowingly or unknowingly—have done.
Publishers Weekly


Andy Barber has been the top district attorney in his small, middle-class, Massachusetts town for 20 years. When a teenage boy is murdered, Andy focuses on a neighborhood pedophile as the chief suspect. There are concerns about a conflict of interest since Andy's teenage son, Jacob, attended the same school as the murdered boy and the investigation seems to be lagging. But after Jacob's best friend provides evidence against him, Jacob is arrested. Andy is taken off the case and suspended, but he is determined to prove his son's innocence. Verdict: This brilliant novel by the author of The Strangler (2007) and the earlier award-winning Mission Flats (2003) is equal parts legal thriller and dysfunctional family saga, culminating in a shocking ending. Skillful plotting and finely drawn characters result in a haunting story reminiscent of Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent. —Stacy Alesi, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., Boca Raton, FL
Library Journal



Discussion Questions
1. How would you have handled this situation if you were Andy? Would you make the same choices he made? Where would you differ the most?

2. Before and during the trial, how would you have handled the situation if you were Laurie? Do you feel she made strong choices as a mother and a wife?

3. Is Andy a good father? Why or why not?

4. Do you believe Jacob is guilty?

5. Is Jacob a product of his upbringing? Do you think he is he a violent person because his environment makes him violent, or do you think he has violent inclinations since birth?

6. Bullying is such a hot topic in today's media. How did the author incorporate it into the story, and do you think its role had anything to do with Jacob's disposition? How do you think people should stop adolescent bullying?

7. How much of a factor did Jacob's age play into your sympathies for him or lack thereof? If Jacob were seventeen, would you view him differently? What about nine?

8. Do you think Neal Logiudice acts ethically in this novel? What about Andy? What about Laurie?

9. What was the most damning piece of evidence against Jacob? Was there anything that you felt exonerated him?

10. If Jacob hadn't been accused, how do you think his life would have turned out? What kind of a man do you think he would grow up to be?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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