Sunday, February 19, 2012

Defending Jacob

William Landay
Defending Jacob

Delacorte Press, 2012

The book opens with an interview before the grand jury a year after the main events of the books. Andy Barber, whose is the narrator of the story, answer the questions to the prosecutor Logiudice, but the narrotor hides from us what this grand jury is about, returning us to the history of events in April 2007.

In the town called Newton 14-year-old boy Ben Rifkin is found murdered. He was killed in a park near the school with three stabs of the knife in the chest. The lessons in the school are cancelled, and on the place detectives attached to the case arrive with the prosecutor – assistant district attorney Andy Barber. He is 50-year-old man, experienced, who often takes the resonant cases. Barber immediately assumes that this case will get much publicity. Barber is not confused that Rifkin studied in the same class with Barber’s son, Jacob, because there is no indication that the killer is one of the children. No evidence has been found on the ground, no weapon, too, and five days after the murder, the police still have no suspects and versions. There is one clue, however: on the ground a fingerprint has been found.

When Barber receives an anonymous e-mail with a link to the facebook group "Friends of Ben Rifkin," created after his death, on the wall Barber reads an entry written by a friend of Jacob, Derek, in which Derek says that Jacob has a knife. Later, Jacob is arrested on suspicion of murder, Andy is suspended from work, and the family starts to prepare for trial.

This novel, unlike Jacob, do es not need to be defended, so good it is. It needs to be praised. «Defending Jacob» is very realistic novel. The multi-faceted, exciting, intense, knocked down. The premise seems to be simple: the prosecutor's son is accused of murder, and father has to defend ot not defend his son. And the child needs defendung because he is your son, you are responsible for him, you raised him, and then gave him a "murder gene", even if it's just speculation. Andy Barber within all the book length tries to convince himself and all others that Jacob is not guilty, but deep down he just does not doubt that his son is a murderer; Barber's actions give him away. He finds a knife and throws it away without giving the examination. He deletes the information from Jacob’s computer. He argues with his wife, accusing her of that she sets herself against her son, comes up with things.

But the thing is that the author really does not point who is the killer. The choice of the narrator here is perfect: who killed the boy, may know only Jacob, but from him we learn nothing, so we can just as his father, wonder, had he killed, or hadn’t? Landay has built a book around a slippery case. It seems that there are facts, and they show on Jacob, but if you look closely, it's not even the facts, not even evidence, they are just speculation and doubts. And the jury is not sitting there in the courtroom, on the pages of the book, we are the jury, we are here to judge.

It’s interesting to see Logiudice in the book, who is acting as the dark half of Andy. Again, the author leads the reader on a slippery slope. What Logiudice is so actively trying to put Jacob behind the bars, can be regarded as a personal grudge against Barber. This is an attempt to drown the son, and at the same time his father, to remove a competitor. But Barber sees the situation in that way, he is generally can not be trusted. Loguidice asks all the questions which Barber asks himself. Logiudice is a worm of doubt, the devil on Barber’s shoulder.

The book really knocks down, but not by some individual moments, but by the whole complex. How does it feel to see your son before the trial, and you do not know he is guilty or not? What is above, the blood or the law? Is a father responsible for a son and grandson for his grandfather? «Defending Jacob» raises these questions and more in full growth. Here are collisions between speculation and science, law and justice, the father and son, society and the individual.

Reading the book, one can’t not to get into Barber’s skin, it is impossible not to feel fear when the day of trial approaches, it is impossible not to simpatize - not to the boy but for father. Landay describes with the great delicacy the entire proceedings, interrogations, legal tricks. This is a pleasure to watch how Barber follows the battle of the prosecutor and attorney, noticing mistakes, lucks, the reaction of the jury.

The hero of the book Andy Barber is a good man; this is not going to argue. After all, what makes a person good person? A good man and good father would believe his son to the last, will defend him to the last. But are you a good man if you defend the criminal, your son criminal?

«Defending Jacob» is a portrait of justice, a portrait ugly but honest.


  1. So many people have told me I'd enjoy this book! You make it sound unavoidable, at least for me! Great review. I need something gets me flip-flopping and second guessing myself.

    Marlene Detierro (Tony Lama Boot)

  2. I must say I remember every facet of this book and almost wish I hadn't read it. The ending was unbearable. Jacob was a monster and his father defended him. His mother was the true heroine.