Defending Jacob

Defending Jacob

3.8 2698
by William Landay
     
 

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NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
Entertainment Weekly • The Boston Globe • Kansas City Star
 
“A legal thriller that’s comparable to classics such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent . . . Tragic and shocking, Defending Jacob is sure to generate buzz.”—Associated PressSee more details below

Overview

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
Entertainment Weekly • The Boston Globe • Kansas City Star
 
“A legal thriller that’s comparable to classics such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent . . . Tragic and shocking, Defending Jacob is sure to generate buzz.”—Associated Press
 
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney for two decades. He is respected. Admired in the courtroom. Happy at home with the loves of his life: his wife, Laurie, and their teenage son, Jacob.

Then Andy’s quiet suburb is stunned by a shocking crime: a young boy stabbed to death in a leafy park. And an even greater shock: The accused is Andy’s own son—shy, awkward, mysterious Jacob.

Andy believes in Jacob’s innocence. Any parent would. But the pressure mounts. Damning evidence. Doubt. A faltering marriage. The neighbors’ contempt. A murder trial that threatens to obliterate Andy’s family.

It is the ultimate test for any parent: How far would you go to protect your child? It is a test of devotion. A test of how well a parent can know a child. For Andy Barber, a man with an iron will and a dark secret, it is a test of guilt and innocence in the deepest sense.

How far would you go?

Praise for Defending Jacob
 
“Ingenious . . . Nothing is predictable. All bets are off.”—The New York Times
 
“Stunning . . . a novel that comes to you out of the blue and manages to keep you reading feverishly until the whole thing is completed.”—The Huffington Post
 
“Gripping, emotional murder saga . . . The shocking ending will have readers pulling up their bedcovers to ward off the haunting chill.”—People
 
“The hype is justified. . . . Exceptionally serious, suspenseful, engrossing.”—The Washington Post
 
“Even with unexpected twists and turns, the two narratives interlock like the teeth of a zipper, building to a tough and unflinching finale. This novel has major motion picture written all over it.”—The Boston Globe
 
“Yes, this book came out in January. No, we are not done talking about it.”—Entertainment Weekly

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Ingenious . . .  Nothing is predictable. All bets are off.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“A legal thriller that’s comparable to classics such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent . . . Tragic and shocking, Defending Jacob is sure to generate buzz.”—Associated Press

“Stunning . . . a novel that comes to you out of the blue and manages to keep you reading feverishly until the whole thing is completed.”—The Huffington Post

“Gripping . . . [Landay] keeps you turning the pages through the shocking gut-punch of an ending.”—Entertainment Weekly

“Gripping, emotional murder saga . . . The shocking ending will have readers pulling up their bedcovers to ward off the haunting chill.”—People

“The hype is justified. . . . Exceptionally serious, suspenseful, engrossing.”—The Washington Post

“Not since Scott Turow has a crime thriller—any thriller, though this too happens to be a literary legal thriller—shaken me by the throat like this. It’s a stunning, shocking, emotionally harrowing ride in which the reader is plunged into a riveting but terrible murder trial and the equally heartbreaking implosion of a loving family.”—Daily Mail

“Even with unexpected twists and turns, the two narratives interlock like the teeth of a zipper, building to a tough and unflinching finale. This novel has major motion picture written all over it.”—The Boston Globe

“[William] Landay does the seemingly impossible by coming up with a new wrinkle in the crowded subgenre of courtroom thrillers. . . . It’s inevitable that he’ll be compared to Scott Turow, but this novel succeeds on its own merits.”—Kirkus Reviews

Patrick Anderson
In the publicity material for William Landay's Defending Jacob, its publisher and several advance readers liken the novel to Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent, arguably the finest of American legal thrillers. The hype is justified. I don't think Landay's novel has quite the elegance or gravitas of Turow's, but it's an exceptionally serious, suspenseful, engrossing story that deserves and should achieve a large audience.
The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
…a clever blend of legal thriller and issue-oriented family implosion…in [Defending Jacob], nothing is predictable. All bets are off.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Andy Barber, a respected First Assistant DA who lives in Newton, Mass., with his gentle wife, Laurie, and their 14-year-old son, Jacob, must face the unthinkable in Dagger Award–winner Landay’s harrowing third suspense novel. When Ben Rifkin, Jacob’s classmate, is found stabbed to death in the woods, Internet accusations and incontrovertible evidence point to big, handsome Jacob. Andy’s prosecutorial gut insists a child molester is the real killer, but as Jacob’s trial proceeds and Andy’s marriage crumbles under the forced revelation of old secrets, horror builds on horror toward a breathtakingly brutal outcome. Landay (The Strangler), a former DA, mixes gritty court reporting with Andy’s painful confrontation with himself, forcing readers willy-nilly to realize the end is never the end when, as Landay claims, the line between truth and justice has become so indistinct as to appear imaginary. This searing narrative proves the ancient Greek tragedians were right: the worst punishment is not death but living with what you—knowingly or unknowingly—have done. Author tour. (Feb.)
People Magazine
Gripping, emotional murder saga....The shocking ending will have readers pulling up their bedcovers to ward off the haunting chill. (three of four stars)
Associated Press Staff
Landay has written a legal thriller that's comparable to classics such as Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent....Tragic and shocking, Defending Jacob is sure to generate buzz.
Huffington Post
Defending Jacob is a novel that comes to you out of the blue and manages to keep you reading feverishly until the whole thing is completed....a stunning novel...one that should draw attention to the possibilities it raises. In the next few weeks, Defending Jacob is the novel most readers are going to be discussing.
Florida Sun-Sentinel
Superb...the end is one of those shocking twists that is as believable as it is surprising....Defending Jacob soars as Landay's rich plot weaves in parenting skills, unconditional love, and the law.
The Missourian
The story ends perfectly.
Entertainment Weekly
Like John Grisham and Scott Turow, Landay is a lawyer with a solid grasp of how to use courtroom scenes to advance his jigsaw-puzzle story....with a grabby premise and careful plotting, he keeps you turning the pages through the shocking gut-punch of an ending. B+
Portland Oregonian
Do you like a mystery with a good twist at the end? How about one with the literary equivalent of skating's triple axel?....Hang on for that shocking and yet believable ending—with a triple twist you won't see coming.
West Virginia Sentinel
This is a gut-wrenching book for parents that will keep you thinking long until the last page is through. The taut suspense will keep readers guessing.
Business Week
Landay does a lovely job setting up the many strands of this complex novel.
Bookreporter.com
Defending Jacob hits uncomfortably but unerringly close to home, and is as compelling a work as you are likely to pick up this year.
Bookpage
Defending Jacob is one of the most disturbing books of the year, and soon to be one of the most talked-about. (top pick in mystery)
Booklist
[Landay] reaches a new level of excellence with this riveting, knock-your-socks-off legal thriller. With its masterfully crafted characterizations and dialogue, emotional depth, and frightening implications, the novel rivals the best of Scott Turow and John Grisham. Don't miss it. (starred review)
Library Journal
Andy Barber has been the top district attorney in his small, middle-class, Massachusetts town for 20 years. When a teenage boy is murdered, Andy focuses on a neighborhood pedophile as the chief suspect. There are concerns about a conflict of interest since Andy's teenage son, Jacob, attended the same school as the murdered boy and the investigation seems to be lagging. But after Jacob's best friend provides evidence against him, Jacob is arrested. Andy is taken off the case and suspended, but he is determined to prove his son's innocence. VERDICT This brilliant novel by the author of The Strangler and the award-winning Mission Flats is equal parts legal thriller and dysfunctional family saga, culminating in a shocking ending. Skillful plotting and finely drawn characters result in a haunting story reminiscent of Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent. [See Prepub Alert, 8/8/11.]—Stacy Alesi, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., Boca Raton, FL
Kirkus Reviews
Landay does the seemingly impossible by coming up with a new wrinkle in the crowded subgenre of courtroom thrillers. Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber is called to a gruesome crime scene after Ben Rifkin, a 14-year-old boy, has been brutally stabbed in a city park. One suspect seems likely, a pedophile who lives nearby and is known to frequent the park, but suspicion turns quickly to another, much more unlikely, suspect--Andy's son Jacob, one of Ben's classmates. It seems Ben is not the paragon of virtue he is made out to be, for he's got a mean streak and has been harassing Jacob...but is this a sufficient motive for a 14-year-old to commit murder? Some of Jacob's fellow students post messages on Facebook suggesting he's guilty of the crime, and Jacob also admits to having shown a "cool" knife to his friends. When Andy finds the knife, he quickly disposes of it, but even he's not sure if he does this because he suspects his son is innocent or because he suspects his son is guilty. Complicating the family dynamic is Laurie, Jacob's mother, who's at least half convinced that her son might indeed be capable of such a heinous act--and it turns out Andy has concealed his own past from Laurie because both his father and grandfather have been murderers, and he fears he may have both inherited and passed down to Jacob a gene associated with aggressive behavior in males. Landay is yet another lawyer-turned-writer, and it's inevitable that he'll be compared to Scott Turow, but this novel succeeds on its own merits.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780345533661
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/03/2013
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
20,061
Product dimensions:
5.36(w) x 7.84(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
In the Grand Jury  
 
Mr. Logiudice:     State your name, please.  
Witness:     Andrew Barber.  
Mr. Logiudice:     What do you do for work, Mr. Barber?  
Witness:  I was an assistant district attorney in this county for 22 years.  
Mr. Logiudice:     "Was." What do you do for work now?  
Witness:  I suppose you'd say I'm unemployed.  
 
In April 2008, Neal Logiudice finally subpoenaed me to appear before the grand jury. By then it was too late. Too late for his case, certainly, but also too late for Logiudice. His reputation was already damaged beyond repair, and his career along with it. A prosecutor can limp along with a damaged reputation for a while, but his colleagues will watch him like wolves and eventually he will be forced out, for the good of the pack. I have seen it many times: an ADA is irreplaceable one day, forgotten the next.  

I have always had a soft spot for Neal Logiudice (pronounced la-JOO-dis). He came to the DA's office a dozen years before this, right out of law school. He was twenty-nine then, short, with thinning hair and a little potbelly. His mouth was overstuffed with teeth; he had to force it shut, like a full suitcase, which left him with a sour, pucker-mouthed expression. I used to get after him not to make this face in front of juries-nobody likes a scold-but he did it unconsciously. He would get up in front of the jury box shaking his head and pursing his lips like a schoolmarm or a priest, and in every juror there stirred a secret desire to vote against him. Inside the office, Logiudice was a bit of an operator and a kiss-ass. He got a lot of teasing. Other ADAs tooled on him endlessly, but he got it from everyone, even people who worked with the office at arm's length-cops, clerks, secretaries, people who did not usually make their contempt for a prosecutor quite so obvious. They called him Milhouse, after a dweeby character on The Simpsons, and they came up with a thousand variations on his name: LoFoolish, LoDoofus, Sid Vicious, Judicious, on and on. But to me, Logiudice was okay. He was just innocent. With the best intentions, he smashed people's lives and never lost a minute of sleep over it. He only went after bad guys, after all. That is the Prosecutor's Fallacy-They are bad guys because I am prosecuting them-and Logiudice was not the first to be fooled by it, so I forgave him for being righteous. I even liked him. I rooted for him precisely because of his oddities, the unpronounceable name, the snaggled teeth-which any of his peers would have had straightened with expensive braces, paid for by Mummy and Daddy-even his naked ambition. I saw something in the guy. An air of sturdiness in the way he bore up under so much rejection, how he just took it and took it. He was obviously a working-class kid determined to get for himself what so many others had simply been handed. In that way, and only in that way, I suppose, he was just like me.  

Now, a dozen years after he arrived in the office, despite all his quirks, he had made it, or nearly made it. Neal Logiudice was First Assistant, the number two man in the Middlesex District Attorney's Office, the DA's right hand and chief trial attorney. He took over the job from me-this kid who once said to me, "Andy, you're exactly what I want to be someday." I should have seen it coming.   In the grand jury room that morning, the jurors were in a sullen, defeated mood. They sat, thirty-odd men and women who had not been clever enough to find a way out of serving, all crammed into those school chairs with teardrop-shaped desks for chair arms. They understood their jobs well enough by now. Grand juries serve for months, and they figure out pretty quickly what the gig is all about: accuse, point your finger, name the wicked one.
 
A grand jury proceeding is not a trial. There is no judge in the room and no defense lawyer. The prosecutor runs the show. It is an investigation and in theory a check on the prosecutor's power, since the grand jury decides whether the prosecutor has enough evidence to haul a suspect into court for trial. If there is enough evidence, the grand jury grants the prosecutor an indictment, his ticket to Superior Court. If not, they return a "no bill" and the case is over before it begins. In practice, no bills are rare. Most grand juries indict. Why not? They only see one side of the case.  
But in this case, I suspect the jurors knew Logiudice did not have a case. Not today. The truth was not going to be found, not with evidence this stale and tainted, not after everything that had happened. It had been over a year already-over twelve months since the body of a fourteen-year-old boy was found in the woods with three stab wounds arranged in a line across the chest as if he'd been forked with a trident. But it was not the time, so much. It was everything else. Too late, and the grand jury knew it.  

I knew it too.  

Only Logiudice was undeterred. He pursed his lips in that odd way of his. He reviewed his notes on a yellow legal pad, considered his next question. He was doing just what I'd taught him. The voice in his head was mine: Never mind how weak your case is. Stick to the system. Play the game the same way it's been played the last five-hundred-odd years, use the same gutter tactic that has always governed cross-examination-lure, trap, fuck.  

He said, "Do you recall when you first heard about the Rifkin boy's murder?"  
"Yes."  
"Describe it."  
"I got a call, I think, first from CPAC-that's thes tate police. Then two more came in right away, one from the Newton police, one from the duty DA. I may have the order wrong, but basically the phone started ringing off the hook."  
"When was this?"  
"Thursday, April 12, 2007, around nine A.M., right after the body was discovered."  
"Why were you called?"  
"I was the First Assistant. I was notified of every murder in the county. It was standard procedure."  
"But you did not keep every case, did you? You did not personally investigate and try every homicide that came in?"  
"No, of course not. I didn't have that kind of time.  I kept very few homicides. Most I assigned to other ADAs."  
"But this one you kept."  
"Yes."  
"Did you decide immediately that you were going to keep it for yourself, or did you only decide that later?"  
"I decided almost immediately."  
"Why? Why did you want this case in particular?"  
"I had an understanding with the district attorney, Lynn Canavan: certain cases I would try personally."  
"What sort of cases?"  
"High-priority cases."  
"Why you?"  
"I was the senior trial lawyer in the office. She wanted to be sure that important cases were handled properly."  
"Who decided if a case was high priority?"  
"Me, in the first instance. In consultation with the district attorney, of course, but things tend to move pretty fast at the beginning. There isn't usually time for a meeting."  
"So you decided the Rifkin murder was a high-priority case?"  
"Of course."  
"Why?"  
"Because it involved the murder of a child. I think we also had an idea it might blow up, catch the media's attention. It was that kind of case. It happened in a wealthy town, with a wealthy victim. We'd already had a few cases like that. At the beginning we did not know exactly what it was, either. In some ways it looked like a schoolhouse killing, a Columbine thing. Basically, we didn't know what the hell it was, but it smelled like a big case. If it had turned out to be a smaller thing, I would have passed it off later, but in those first few hours I had to be sure everything was done right."  
"Did you inform the district attorney that you had a conflict of interest?"  
"No."  
"Why not?"  
"Because I didn't have one."  
"Wasn't your son, Jacob, a classmate of the dead boy?"  
"Yes, but I didn't know the victim. Jacob didn't know him either, as far as I was aware. I'd never even heard the dead boy's name."  
"You did not know the kid. All right. But you did know that he and your son were in the same grade at the same middle school in the same town?"  
"Yes."  
"And you still didn't think you were conflicted out?  You didn't think your objectivity might be called into question?"  
"No. Of course not."  
"Even in hindsight? You insist, you- Even in hindsight, you still don't feel the circumstances gave even the appearance of a conflict?"  
"No, there was nothing improper about it. There was nothing even unusual about it. The fact that I lived in the town where the murder happened? That was a good thing. In smaller counties, the prosecutor often lives in the community where a crime happens, he often knows the people affected by it. So what? So he wants to catch the murderer even more? That's not a conflict of interest. Look, the bottom line is, I have a conflict with all murderers. That's my job. This was a horrible, horrible crime; it was my job to do something about it. I was determined to do just that."  
"Okay." Logiudice lowered his eyes to his pad. No sense attacking the witness so early in his testimony. He would come back to this point later in the day, no doubt, when I was tired. For now, best to keep the temperature down.  
"You understand your Fifth Amendment rights?"  
"Of course."  
"And you have waived them?"  
"Apparently. I'm here. I'm talking."  
Titters from the grand jury.  
Logiudice laid down his pad, and with it he seemed to set aside his game plan for a moment. "Mr. Barber-Andy-could I just ask you something: why not invoke them? Why not remain silent?" The next sentence he left unsaid: That's what I would do.  
I thought for a moment that this was a tactic, a bit of play acting. But Logiudice seemed to mean it. He was worried I was up to something. He did not want to be tricked, to look like a fool.  
I said, "I have no desire to remain silent. I want the truth to come out."  
"No matter what?"  
"I believe in the system, same as you, same as everyone here."  

Now, this was not exactly true. I do not believe in the court system, at least I do not think it is especially good at finding the truth. No lawyer does. We have all seen too many mistakes, too many bad results. A jury verdict is just a guess-a well-intentioned guess, generally, but you simply cannot tell fact from fiction by taking a vote. And yet, despite all that, I do believe in the power of the ritual. I believe in the religious symbolism, the black robes, the marble-columned courthouses like Greek temples. When we hold a trial, we are saying a mass. We are praying together to do what is right and to be protected from danger, and that is worth doing whether or not our prayers are actually heard.  

Of course, Logiudice did not go in for that sort of solemn bullshit. He lived in the lawyer's binary world, guilty or not guilty, and he was determined to keep me pinned there.  

"You believe in the system, do you?" he sniffed. "All right, Andy, let's get back to it, then. We'll let the system do its work." He gave the jury a knowing, smart-ass look.  

Attaboy, Neal. Don't let the witness jump into bed with the jury-you jump into bed with the jury. Jump in there and snuggle right up beside them under the blanket and leave the witness out in the cold. I smirked. I would have stood up and applauded if I'd been allowed to, because I taught him to do precisely this. Why deny myself a little fatherly pride? I must not have been all bad-I turned Neal Logiudice into a half-decent lawyer, after all.  

"So go on already," I said, nuzzling the jury's neck. "Stop screwing around and get on with it, Neal."  

He gave me a look, then picked up his yellow pad again and scanned it, looking for his place. I could practically read the thought spelled out across his forehead: Lure, trap, fuck. "Okay," he said, "let's pick it up at the aftermath of the murder."  
 
2 |
Our Crowd  
April 2007: twelve months earlier.  
 
When the Rifkins opened their home for the shiva, the Jewish period of mourning, it seemed the whole town came. The family would not be allowed to mourn in private. The boy's murder was a public event; the grieving would be as well. The house was so full that when the murmur of conversation occasionally swelled, the whole thing began to feel awkwardly like a party, until the crowd lowered its voice as one, as if an invisible volume knob were being turned.  
I made apologetic faces as I moved through this crowd, repeating "Excuse me," turning this way and that to shuffle by.  

People stared with curious expressions. Someone said, "That's him, that's Andy Barber," but I did not stop. We were four days past the murder now, and everyone knew I was handling the case. They wanted to ask about it, naturally, about suspects and clues and all that, but they did not dare. For the moment, the details of the investigation did not matter, only the raw fact that an innocent kid was dead.  

Murdered! The news sucker-punched them. Newton had no crime to speak of. What the locals knew about violence necessarily came from news reports and TV shows. They had supposed that violent crime was limited to the city, to an underclass of urban hillbillies. They were wrong about that, of course, but they were not fools and they would not have been so shocked by the murder of an adult. What made the Rifkin murder so profane was that it involved one of the town's children. It was a violation of Newton's self-image. For awhile a sign had stood in Newton Centre declaring the place "A Community of Families, A Family of Communities," and you often heard it repeated that Newton was "a good place to raise kids." Which indeed it was. It brimmed with test-prep centers and after-school tutors, karate dojos and Saturday soccer leagues. The town's young parents especially prized this idea of Newton as a child's paradise. Many of them had left the hip, sophisticated city to move here. They had accepted massive expenses, stultifying monotony, and the queasy disappointment of settling for a conventional life. To these ambivalent residents, the whole suburban project made sense only because it was "a good place to raise kids." They had staked everything on it.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

“The hype is justified. . . . Exceptionally serious, suspenseful, engrossing.”—The Washington Post

“A legal thriller that’s comparable to classics such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent . . . Tragic and shocking, Defending Jacob is sure to generate buzz.”—Associated Press

“Stunning . . . a novel that comes to you out of the blue and manages to keep you reading feverishly until the whole thing is completed.”—The Huffington Post
 
“Ingenious . . . Nothing is predictable. All bets are off.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“Unexpected twists . . . This novel has major motion picture written all over it.”—The Boston Globe
 
“Gripping . . . [Landay] keeps you turning the pages through the shocking gut-punch of an ending.”—Entertainment Weekly

“Landay has proven himself to be an extraordinary writer, and Defending Jacob is AN AMAZING NOVEL. Do yourself a favor and read it. It’s that good.”—Nicholas Sparks

“Defending Jacob is SMART, SOPHISTICATED, AND SUSPENSEFUL—capturing both the complexity and stunning fragility of family life.”—Lee Child

“A powerful portrayal of a family, a crime, and a community, Defending Jacob compels you to flip frantically through the pages, desperate to know what will happen next, then leaves you gasping breathlessly at each shocking revelation. This is a PAGE-TURNER WITH BITE . . . and that’s before you get to the end.”—Lisa Gardner  

“GRIPPING . . . The shocking ending will have readers pulling up their bedcovers to ward off the haunting chill.”—People

“A novel like this comes along maybe once a decade. William Landay’s Defending Jacob is A TOUR DE FORCE, a full-blooded legal thriller about a murder trial and the way it shatters a family.”—Joseph Finder

“HARROWING . . . This searing narrative proves the ancient Greek tragedians were right: The worst punishment is not death but living with what you—knowingly or unknowingly—have done.”—Publishers Weekly

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