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Author William Landay
“Defending Jacob” is a courtroom thriller about an assistant district attorney’s teen-age son accused of murdering a classmate. Andy Barber and his wife are happily married with a 14-year old son, Jacob, who was greatly bullied at school, particularly by a student named Ben Rifkin. When Ben Rifkin’s body was found in a ditch on the way to school, the shocked townsfolk thought it was the work of a known child predator in the area. When the police found Jacob Barber’s bloodied fingerprint on Ben’s jacket, the boy admitted to them that he came across the body on the way to school, turned it over, and went on his way, not wanting to become involved.
Andy’s protégé, Neal Logiudice, avaricious to take over as first Assistant D.A., suggested that Andy should not oversee the case because it took place at his son’s school. Andy reluctantly agreed, but when Jacob becomes the prime suspect due to circumstances including his fingerprint on the jacket, Andy takes on his son’s defense in court.
Andy and his wife, Laurie, college sweethearts, have always put family first, but now they realize how little they know about their son who is usually withdrawn and antisocial. Nevertheless, they believe wholeheartedly in his innocence. The novel demonstrates how tragedy can pull a family apart, slowly deteriorating important bonds. Andy had kept a major secret from Laurie concerning his family and felt compelled to reveal it when Jacob became the suspect. These facts wore down Laurie to the point of losing weight, aging ungracefully, and diminishing her faith in her husband. Neal Logiudice, the prosecutor, reveals these facts, helping him to shore up his case. Courtroom sequences illustrate author William Landay’s own background as an assistant D.A. in Massachusetts.
How far will a father go to protect his son? How devious can a prosecutor be to advance himself politically when the right case comes along? These questions will undoubtedly come up in Book Clubs throughout the country in the next year. The last hundred pages are loaded with twists and turns which the reader could never have foreseen. William Landay has produced the most readable novel to emerge on the scene in the past fifty years. I am certain some screenwriter will get hold of “Defending Jacob” and bring it to the screen within the next three years.