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Defending Jacob

A Novel
Narrated by: Grover Gardner
Length: 12 hrs and 24 mins
Categories: Fiction, Contemporary
4 out of 5 stars (9,851 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than 20 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 14-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, and 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.

©2012 William Landay (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“Landay has proven himself to be an extraordinary writer, and Defending Jacob is an amazing novel. Do yourself a favor and read it. It’s that good.” (Nicholas Sparks, #1 New York Times best-selling author)
“Harrowing . . . 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, starred review)
“[Landay] reaches a new level of excellence with this riveting, knock-your-socks-off legal thriller. With its masterfully crafted characterizations and dialogue, emotional depth, and frightening implications, the novel rivals the best of Scott Turow and John Grisham. Don’t miss it.” ( Booklist, starred review)

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  • cristina
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 03-12-12

Terrific!

Despite the reviews, I hesitated downloading "Defending Jacob" because of the subject matter (kid/parent angst, bullies, person-trapped-in-the-legal-system, etc.). It seemed like it would be a predictable plot. I couldn't have been more wrong!

This is one of the best court room drama?family drama? suspense novel? I have read/listened to. The characters were incredibly well developed -- the parents' relationship with their son was almost painful just because it was so believable ("this could have happened to anyone!"). The plot is incredibly intense. I literally sat in a parking lot with my mouth open as the final minutes were read. And the PERFORMANCE!!! A tour de force. The reader did such an unbelievable job that I am actually afraid to recommend the novel to people who might just 'read' it because I felt he added so much (was the novel THIS good in print?). Could not praise this audiobook enough.

(I read Mr. Landay's two previous novels recently -- I saw the great reviews of "Defending Jacob" but, like I said, I was avoiding it because of the plot, so I chose to read his earlier books first. Obviously, the author is mastering his craft. I can't wait for his next novel!)

98 of 101 people found this review helpful

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  • Shauna
  • Pasadena, CA, United States
  • 02-18-12

Defending Jacob

Defending Jacob is a brilliant story, written very neatly -- no extra words, artifacts or superfluous emotions. I was captivated from start to finish.

The writer portrays the dilemmas faced by the main characters, Andy Barber, and his wife, Laurie. The two have opposing views of how to handle a situation wherein their 14 year old son has been accused of murder. They even have differing recollections on their son as a child and an adolescent despite having lived together since he was born. I found myself wavering back and forth on guilt or innocence depending on the trial evidence and what is revealed by the various characters.

The story is made more complex by the fact that Andy Barber is a prosecutor who has some involvement with the case before his son is charged. The case is taken over by one of Andy's proteges who then views Andy as a nemesis. The interaction between those two is also very interesting because you don't know whether the new prosecutor has a case or is simply trying to defeat someone whom he views as a rival.

This novel is along the lines of "We Need to Talk About Kevin" by Lionel Shriver, also an excellent book, but written in a more thought provoking way. Whereas "Kevin" leads to an obvious conclusion, Defending Jacob keeps you guessing.



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76 of 82 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Still Thinking About This Tale Weeks After

What other book might you compare Defending Jacob to and why?

Defending Jacob is in some ways a morality tale like "To Kill a Mockingbird." There is a trial and unlike those famous media trials played out in today's news, this one makes it clear that when there is a crime, there is no winner and no loser. There are more shades of gray than black and white. Family relationships complicate all things and our very humanity should make it clear that we all walk a tightrope of right and wrong, good and bad. There is so much to think about that I'm still pondering the insights many weeks after my listen. The author did an outstanding job of creating an engaging, adrenalin packed murder drama that's so much more than the sum of its parts. It's also a tale about how we protect ourselves from the things we are unwilling to accept.

Who was the most memorable character of Defending Jacob and why?

Jacob's father and mother come to their understanding of Jacob's situation each in their own way. They stop to question themselves constantly--which is something parents are prone to do. It's natural. The many layers of their thoughts and emotions were revealed slowly with dawning realizations and stunning realism.

Any additional comments?

This is a beautifully wrought tale of our relationships with our own children and what responsibility we hold for their frailties, wrapped up in a courtroom thriller. Excellent read!

50 of 54 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Susan
  • Bartonville, TX
  • 04-21-13

Mother of two teen boys

Any additional comments?

Wow, a thought stopper. It is well written and the narrator melted into the book and makes you forget he was there. This is one of those books that makes you pause.... I had an inkling of what was coming because of the way Landay was writing the courtroom scene(s). Brilliant. I have not read one done like that before. He had me leaning in and paying closer attention to those. As a Mom I know what it is to feel complete and utter responsibility for the lives our babes. The story was told by the father and his frustration level was so evident that I felt myself feeling sorry for this prudent and intelligent thinker. This is a good book that has a fast and ever changing plot.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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BRAVO!!!! Outstanding!

I bought three 'unknown' books at the same time -- books written by authors new to me, writers and books I'd never heard of before or seen, outside of Audible. I listened to the first two, which were only so-so, and I was just about to remind myself to stick to known quantities from now on. All that said, I wasn't expecting much when I started 'Defending Jacob'. But WOW -- this one made up for what the other two lacked.

It's hard to say much about this book without giving too much away -- I can say that as I was listening, I felt myself getting furious with first the father, then the mother, for the way they saw, and treated, their son. The father was of the "my son can do no wrong" school of thought, which seemed totally ridiculous under the circumstances. The mother allowed herself to be drawn in by some nutty theory of genetic inclination to murder, which -- as described in this situation -- was just as bizarre. But that's the mark of a good book -- I couldn't stop listening. I was so involved with the characters -- we don't actually hear much from Jacob himself -- that I couldn't wait to see what would happen next.

Nor will I betray anything else about the plot suffice it to say I listened to the ending, couldn't quite believe what I'd heard, so went back and listened to the last hour again. LOL -- great fun! What a book! Way beyond excellent plot, perfect narration, and all in all, one of the best of the year. Don't miss this one.

23 of 25 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic story, twist, and narration.

Although initially skeptical of the narrator, he grew on me, and hit it out of the park by the conclusion. Although I am not a rabid fan of the courtroom drama/mystery, i found this to be very fulfilling for what it was. Well done.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Whiplasher!

I doubt you'll see this one coming--so, the less said the better....
Perhaps the greatest achievement of William Landay in writing Defending Jacob is the fact that he was able to write a suspenseful courtroom/domestic drama that is completely original, and unexpected. I can think of a particular current event from which a similar story could be extrapolated--but to say anything more would be a dirty rotten spoiler--and you deserve all the unexpected twists and pathetic ugly turns this gripping story has to offer.

I wouldn't say Landay has reached the level of polish of fellow lawyers-turned-authors Turow and Grisham with his writing style, but if you are a fan of their books you'll probably find Defending Jacob an engrossing read that can stand on its own among these big boys. The narration is split into the first person narration by Andy Barber, and the reading of the Grand Jury transcripts. Grover Gardner does an animated job of narrating; my only complaint was his voice is a bit gruff and harsh, as is very much of the language (especially during the first person narration), and while I thought it fit "Father O'Leary" and Andy's incarcerated father, I didn't personally care for the tone for most of the book. If you like a gritty courtroom drama--if you can handle the truth--this one might be for you.

68 of 77 people found this review helpful

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  • Suzn F
  • Fletcher, VT, US
  • 03-25-12

An Unexpected Delight

I loved this book. The narration was really great, the plot kept my interest and it was well written. A small complaint/ is the ending, I just didn't feel like it fit the characters. But regardless it was unanticipated so I give credit for that.
The story was compelling and yes, good book.... well worth the credit

39 of 44 people found this review helpful

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  • Cris
  • Lake Waccamaw, NC, United States
  • 08-28-12

Life After the Trial of Your Child--Ugh!

If you've ever wondered about the family life of a person accused of murder, this book seems to offer some insights and I could not stop listening. However, the "explanations" seemed a bit contrived. I would have liked to hear more about the aftermath and more about the early life of the child. While the author hints of signs, the parents seem to have been oblivious and that is the part that most interested me. I would have loved this book if the wife's perspective could have been more developed. Even with these complaints, the book is one that I cannot get out of my mind. In fact, I think my next book might have to be a romance novel (just kidding)!

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
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Brilliant first novel. Very suspenseful.

Mr. Landay's book is outrageously good. There are lots of ex-lawyers out there who think they can write; they should read "Defending Jacob" so they can see what a great book is. The plot twists and turns in ways that entertain and inform you. The main characters are extremely well drawn. The villain LoGuidice is horrible: nasty, vicious, ambitious, duplicitous. The Barber family is extremely complicated: Andy, Jacob and Laurie are all believable humans. The courtroom scenes are a little drawn out, which is often the case with courtroom scenes. You can forgive this, as these guys spent their careers in courtrooms. The device of interspersing Andy's grand jury testimony, something which clearly occurs at the end of the book, but with which Landay teases you throughout, is one of a kind. I have never seen it used before, and if anyone else ever copies it, Mr. Landay should appreciate the fact that imitation is the highest form of flattery.
Grover Gardner is a perfect reader for this book. His voice is friendly and full of humor, even when the text is serious. His reading of the David Rosenfelt lawyer/dog series is so delightful that you want to read every book in it. Gardner doesn't have as many voices as some of the other more technically proficient narrators, but that hasn't stopped audiobook publishers from recognizing his talent. He is warm, knowledgeable and naturally engaging. You will never guess how the book ends, no matter how clever you are. Landay's insights into the world of eighth graders and their parents is true in every detail. I cannot recommend this book more highly; this is the debut of a marvelous talent.

17 of 19 people found this review helpful