Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Guest Reviewer Brenda Margriet (@brendamargriet) reviews Defending Jacob by William Landay

Defending Jacob
by William Landay

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. But 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.
(Goodreads description)

Andy Barber has done his best to keep his small town safe. When a boy in his son's school is killed, he automatically assumes leadership of  the case, until the evidence points at his son, Jacob.

I thought the anxiety and the tension around Andy's belief in his son was very well done. Jacob insists he is innocent, and Andy trusts him implicitly. Yet the reader is forced to keep see-sawing back and forth.  We want to believe in Jacob because Andy does. But the evidence, while circumstantial, is potent.

Laurie, Andy's wife and Jacob's mother, wants to believe in her son. But her conflict is much greater. She at least considers the notion he may be guilty, while Andy absolutely refuses to. She wants him to get help, if he needs it.

The author draws you into the agonizing days spent waiting for the trial, the strain of trying to keep things 'normal'. It is painful to read how this family tries to hold it all together, despite being deserted by people they thought were best friends. Even a trip to the grocery store becomes an ordeal. And because we live in Andy's head, we see how the facade of 'normal' develops cracks, and starts to crumble.

Much of the time, I wasn't sure I wanted to keep reading. Not because of any skill lacking by the author, but because of my own fear of how the book would end. You want Andy's faith in his son to be redeemed, but you are never sure it will be. It is a masterwork of suspense in that way.

This is the type of novel where nothing much happens "on stage".  Almost everything of moment happens off the page, and we find out about it from the narrator.  There are a couple of odd subplots.  One is about a "murder gene", because Andy's father and grandfather were both murderers. His estranged father does play into the plot,  but disappears about three quarters of the way through.  Also there is a psychiatrist's report that pretty much says Jacob 'could' have been the murderer, but nothing much is done with that.

All in all, a thought provoking book, and one I had to finish, despite everything.

Special offer from reviewer 
Brenda Margriet!!!!

Brenda Margriet's first novel, Mountain Fire is being offered FREE on Kindle, October 31 to November 3, 2012.  It will be released January 9, 2013 by The Wild Rose Press for other e-formats.  She lives in Northern British Columbia with her husband, three children (all of whom are taller than her) and various finny and furry pets. By day she is Creative Director at the local television station, and by night she pecks away at her works in progress.  Find out more at www.brendamargriet.com.


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