Defending Jacob by William Landay

Book Reviews
Defending Jacob
A father defends a son accused of murder in William Landay's new thriller.

In Defending Jacob, Andy and Lori Barber seem to have it all: an idealistic suburban life, great friends and neighbors, and reputations to be envied.  Then their 14-year-old son, Jacob, is accused of murder, and life is never the same again.

Released this past January by author William Landay, this novel combines legal suspense, character depth, shocking plot turns, and an ending that will blow your mind. 

The story begins when Andy Barber, an Assistant D.A. for more than 20 years in Newton, MA, receives a phone call that a teenage boy has been found murdered in a park near the very middle school that his own son, Jacob, attends.  It becomes even more personal for Andy when he discovers that the victim and Jacob were acquainted.

Andy suspects that a sleazy pedophile who lives near the crime scene is responsible for the horrific stabbing, but after interviewing the victim’s classmates and reading on Facebook that Jacob not only owns a knife that matches the murder weapon but is being accused of the crime by his own circle of friends, he is forced to consider otherwise.

As everyone in town turns their backs on the Barber family, and as their perfect existence begins to crumble, Andy takes a hard look at the evidence, which appears very circumstantial.  But things soon get worse when Andy and his now mentally fragile wife, Lori, learn that more stunning evidence has been discovered. 

Eventually Jacob is charged with first-degree murder and must stand trial.  Throughout the entire ordeal, Andy never loses faith in his son or his innocence.  Even when he discovers that Jacob is not quite the perfect son that he thought he was. 

Andy is also forced to tell his wife a surprising secret he’s been hiding for their entire marriage – a secret that may throw Jacob’s defense into jeopardy.

Willia Landay proves that he is a master storyteller of suspense in Defending Jacob.   The novel has no real weaknesses and can hold its own with any legal thriller compared to it.  And for the mystery buffs out there, this book feels somewhat like a combination between a John Grisham courtroom drama and an attention-grabbing Harlan Coben selection. 

Defending Jacob is actually William Landay’s third novel.  His debut novel, Mission Flats won the Creasey Memorial Dagger Award for Best First Crime Novel, and his second offering, The Strangler, was selected by The Los Angeles Times as the favorite crime book of the year. 

Landay himself is a Yale and Boston College Law School graduate who served for eight years as an Assistant D.A. in Middlesex County, Massachusetts before turning to writing as a career. 

Luckily for all of the suspense enthusiasts out there, Landay is already working on his next anticipated novel, but in the meantime, if you are going to pick one book to read this summer, Defending Jacob is it.

The layers of tension, smooth writing style, and great twists and turns at the end make this selection worth every minute you spend devouring the pages to discover the answer to the million dollar question – is Jacob truly an inhumane killer or an innocent boy falsely accused of a gruesome murder?

About the Author

Amy Morris

Amy Morris is a librarian technical assistant at the Westport Branch. She earned a B.A. in English, with an emphasis in creative writing, from Avila University. Besides reading and writing, Amy enjoys traveling, art, being creative, and spending time with her family.

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I am glad so many people are

I am glad so many people are reading this book. For those who think the mother is the real murderer, you are not alone. Since I wrote this book review, I have had many people ask me if I thought this theory was plausible. All I can say is anything is possible, but more importantly, this discussion is proving that Defending Jacob is a multifaceted novel with depth.

This has turned out to be one of my favorite books over the last year!

Hi, This book sounds

This book sounds intriguing and your book review is excellent! I enjoyed John Grisham books and I think I will like courtroom dialogue and setting in Defending Jacob too. Thanks for your recommendation. I'm looking forward to reading this new suspenseful novel.

I hope you enjoy this book -

I hope you enjoy this book - it's a good one! After you finish it, check back in and let me know what you think of it.

Thanks for your comment and

Thanks for your comment and your great discussion question! It sounds like you liked the book as much as I did. I don't want to give too much away about the end by responding here, but if you would e-mail me at, I would love to answer your question and give you my opinion about the ending.

I also have some questions for you when you e-mail me. What in particular made you think the mother was involved with the murder. Also, have you read any of William Landay's other books. If so, what was your opinion of them.

Look forward to hearing from you!

I read Defending Jacob two

I read Defending Jacob two times because I was not convinced the son Jacob committed murder. After reading the book twice I realized the real murderer was his mother (at least that is what I think). My friends say I am wrong. Can you tell me what you think? Thank you.
Meredith Katzman, NYC

I told my book club the same

I told my book club the same theory and they laughed me out the door! I thought the mother knew her son was being bullied so killed the friend, suspected Hope would break his hear and killed her. There are some flaws in my theory, such has what would motivate her to kill Jacob in the end.
I think conventional wisdom is against us.

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