Monday, January 13, 2014

Audiobook Review: Defending Jacob by William Landay

Defending Jacob by William Landay (narrated by Grove Gardner, 12 hours 25 minutes) is told from the point of view of Andy Barber, assistant District Attorney for a town in Massachussetts and father to fourteen year old Jacob. When a boy in Jacob's class is found brutally murdered in a park one weekday morning, Andy is initially the DA assigned to the case but when Jacob becomes implicated, Andy must be removed from the case (and his job). The author skillfully takes us through the ins and outs of the investigation and case but, most especially, the inner workings of the Barber family as this drama unfolds. The Barbers thought they knew their son Jacob and want desperately to believe in his innocence but will what they learn in the case shake their trust?

Andy Barber is a level-headed, straight-shooting DA living in an affluent Boston suburb with his wife and,  their only child, Jacob.  Jacob is awkward and withdrawn at times but also goofy and has a seemingly good relationship with his parents. Andy is quick to attribute Jacob's reticence or any odd behavior to the fact that the boy is on the cusp of adolescence. When Andy is informed that Jacob is the suspect in the bloody murder of his young classmate, he is stunned and his instinct to protect his son kicks in. Using his skill as a DA, Andy tries to steer the case before being removed from it and once he is removed. he finds Jacob an excellent defense attorney and begins to work with him on the case. Interestingly, he does not believe in the "system" and doesn't want to entrust his son's future to the vagaries of the judicial system  - no matter how fair he is supposed to believe it.

Andy's wife expresses some concerns about her son and is the first to possibly doubt his innocence. The mounting, damning evidence contributes to that but, more than that, she relies on her memory of him as a young child. The problems he often had with other kids on the playground or in school; the anger he would display even as an infant when crawling. More than Andy, she punishes herself for not intervening sooner or for things she felt may have contributed to any problems Jacob now has - like putting him in daycare at a young age so she could return to work.  Meanwhile, Andy remains rational and tried to calm his wife even as he is frustrated with the fact that she is even questioning Jacob. He remains steadfast in his faith - almost as if he must otherwise he may need to admit some responsibility and he can't bring himself to that.  Afterall, Andy has his own secret.

My Thoughts
I devoured this book - from the beginning, I got on the roller coaster ride of courtroom drama and did not want to get off. The story is told primarily through the transcript of the trial of Jacob and the dialogue is riveting. Between the trial transcript, however, are the inner thoughts of Andy Barber which provide insight to the emotions of the parents and the horrible conflict of loving your child unconditionally but being horrified by what he may have done.

The narrator, Grover Gardner, is new to me but I chose this audio on the recommendation of Jennifer at Literate Housewife  and am glad she spoke so highly of it. The narrator's deep voice is perfect for Andy Barber; between the excellent narration and gripping tale, 12+ hours went by in a flash.  Highly recommend!


  1. Thank you for your review - I am probably one of two people who hasn't read this yet. It is on my shelf. Your review makes me want to go read it now.

  2. A friend of mine read this book in print a while ago and she's still talking about it. I've listened to Gardner before and I think he's an outstanding narrator.

  3. I never did get to read this yet. Sounds wonderful....thanks for your great review and thoughts.

    And...thanks for stopping by my Mailbox Monday post earlier today.

    Going to the BEA again this year?

    Silver's Reviews
    My Mailbox Monday

  4. I listened to this one last year and have been recommending the audio to everyone who will listen. I am glad you enjoyed it too!

  5. I just read this book too. Loved it. My thoughts on it are at

  6. I'm so glad you loved it!!!!! Wouldn't it make a good book club pick? This is a great review. I'm so glad to see it well written up. Yeah!

  7. A friend who owns a bookstore recommended this to me as similar but better than Gone Girl. Your fine review reminds me to take a look at it.