You Should Read ‘Defending Jacob’

Defending Jacob, by William Landay, is one of the better fiction novels I have read in a long time. About an assistant district attorney who, while investigating a murder of a child, discovers that his son Jacob is the prime suspect, is a taut, entertaining and easy-to-read thriller that is largely unpredictable.

Told entirely from the DA’s perspective, the book is a great twist on the normal police/prosecutor procedurals (i.e. Law and Order), where Landay slowly takes his protagonist from being an altruistic prosecutor to a defender who is willing to do whatever is necessary to protect his family, even if that means betraying his own code of ethics in the process.

Landay does a great job, through a bit of chronological trickery but primarily just great writing, of keeping the audience guessing as to whether Jacob actually committed the crime or not. The book’s other achievement is that Jacob’s innocence isn’t even what’s at stake–the real focus is whether the father can, and should, prove him not guilty in a court of law (quite a bit different than being “innocent”).

Unlike a lot of fiction books I read (read Reconstructing Amelia, or don’t), Defending Jacob also has a terrific, didn’t-see-that-coming ending (or endings, really). I’ll leave it at that.

Highly recommended.

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