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Mystery Monday – Defending Jacob

Defending Jacob by William Landay

 

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

 

I enjoy books based on a moral or ethical dilemma and Landay definitely provides that with ‘Defending Jacob’.  This novel is a hard-hitting and complicated with layer upon layer of mind-bending decisions and revelations.  Even the format of the book wouldn’t let me take a break.  Through remembering past events and courtroom transcripts I was ‘forced’ to keep reading.  With each chapter there was one more piece of information and things changed just enough to compel me to keep going.  I actually felt a little winded when I read the end.  I was in bed reading and I literally let out a huge breath I didn’t even realize I was holding.  That’s a powerful read!

In the novel, a teenage boy is found dead in a park and the assistant district attorney, Andy Barber, is in charge of the investigation.  Andy’s son Jacob emerges as a suspect and is charged with the murder. Then family secrets emerge to potentially threaten to fracture the Barber family all together.  Is Jacob guilty?  How will Jacob’s parents, Andy and Laurie, get through the trial?  Is Jacob being honest about his relationship with the victim?  Are Andy and Laurie being honest about their feelings and pasts?

This book had me guessing throughout.  I actually like delving into books full of gray areas.  I never know whom to believe.   One chapter I think Jacob is innocent and in the next chapter I think he is guilty.  Books that get me thinking draw me in and keep me engaged.  And, on a deeper level, this book had me thinking how far I would potentially go to protect myself or someone I loved.

At the basis of most books with moral or ethical dilemmas is the attempt to understand human nature.  Are some people born bad or does nurture outweigh nature?  Do we intentionally overlook things because we think it might portray us or those we love in a bad light?  Landay forces the reader to explore the question of ‘What if?’  He carefully crafts a story that spins a web of confusion and, at the same time, clarity for various characters.  It is as if he placed a microscope to human nature and exposes it for all of us to examine.

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