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Monday, December 15, 2014

Defending Jacob by William Landay

“Desire, love hate, fear, repulsion--you feel these things in your muscle and bones, not just in your mind. That is how this little heartbreak felt: like a physical injury, deep inside my body, an internal bleeding, a nick that would continue to seep.”

One morning, a young boy is found murdered, stabbed to death in the park. It’s a horrifying crime in suburban Massachusetts, but it’s business as usual for Assistant District Attorney Andrew Barber. Andy sets out to investigate and prosecute the crime himself, but an ambitious young colleague, is about to blindside him. Neal Logiudice is climbing his way to the top; he knows the case is high profile and he sees his chance to make a name for himself. Neal wants to follow the evidence straight back to Andy’s own son, Jacob. Andrew, finding himself pushed out of a job, must figure out how to save his son and hold his family together…

I couldn’t put this book down. I admit it’s a slow burner; it isn’t a fast paced, overwhelmingly eventful crime novel, but the crime is horrifying and the evidence trickles out tantalizingly slow through a wall of emotional, psychological, and biological character angst. William Landay gives just enough to keep the reader on the hook and no more.

Most of the story swaps between Andy Barber’s home life and Jacob’s trial; and it’s sort of perfect that way. You get to know the characters more than you know the crime; the characters are rich multi-faceted people. Andrew is convinced of Jacob’s innocence while his wife Laura is convince of her son’s guilt. They’re mirror images; Andy’s confidence and professional coldness are contrasted by Laura’s nerves and motherly warmth. Under the stress of a murder trial their marriage fractures, heals, fractures some more. The accusations against Jacob bring up painful memories of the murderous relatives Andy tried so hard forget, and he is forced to confront those memories by a wife who is starting to blame him for Jacob’s problems. You’re seeing him struggle with his past and his present all at once, trying to hold onto a marriage founded on lies, trying to keep his son out of prison, and it’s all at once heartbreaking. You want things to work out. You know they can’t. This story isn’t set for a happy ending because no matter the verdict, someone is going to lose.

The best and worst moment of this book was the surprise ending. I was really surprised! And I hated it. It pissed me off. Had I been holding a paperback instead of a Kindle I’d a chucked the effing thing at a wall in a rage. I also loved it. I loved it because it was a beautiful bit of betrayal. Just as WL is tying things up nice and neat and you think its over, he throws in doubt and something so much worse. Nurture vs. Nature. WL presents a terrifying argument and leaves the answer open to reader opinion.

Rating: 4/5

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