Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Rosepoint Publishing: Five Stars
Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than 20 years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: his 14-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.
Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, and as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own – between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.
Award-winning author William Landay has written the consummate novel of an embattled family in crisis – a suspenseful, character-driven mystery that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control.
I must admit that I chose this audiobook because I saw that it was narrated by Grover Gardner and I’m a huge fan of Mr. Gardner—the “Andy” of the Andy Carpenter series (by another author). His artistic rendition carries most any book to new heights, not just reading the book, but making the characters come alive—flesh and blood—along with their foibles. Such is the Andy in this book.
The hook at the beginning manages to jump what will become the meat and potatoes of this book—the POV by Andy Barber. Andy is happily married and they have a fourteen-year-old son, Jacob. Every now and then, the POV jumps over the catastrophic event in the family’s life that propels the legal thriller to a heartbreaking family drama.
Jacob is accused of the murder of a classmate. Andy becomes convinced that Jacob would not—could not—commit the heinous crime—stabbing three times the chest of the boy found murdered and left in the park. He is temporarily suspended from his position as ADA and becomes convinced beyond all reason (and mostly circumstantial evidence) that his son is innocent.
Meanwhile, Laurie, his wife is becoming alarmed at her crushing emotions and conflicting beliefs—then guilt over her thoughts. Could her son have killed that boy? The atmosphere in the air becomes increasingly contentious, Andy defending his son beyond reason. Jacob declaring his innocence. His mother no longer so positive—doubts seeping into the bedrock, loosening her private shocking fears and revelations to her husband.
Meanwhile, as Andy works second chair with the attorney they hired to defend Jacob, they are confronted with Andy’s own history—dark secrets he’d never shared even with Laurie. She becomes horrified and as her experience with her baby boy begins to shed more light on him, Andy continues the unreasonable and dogged resistance to the possibility.
The reader is first left with a child—yes, sometimes children can be cruel—but this is far beyond bullying—and increasing questions as to the veracity of Andy’s arguments. The toll on the family is unimaginable, threatening to ruin the marriage, his mother’s belief in Jacob’s innocence flailing wildly in the wind. While Andy is a well-developed main character, Laurie is more a strong periphery character and Jacob only known through the insight of Andy and his mother.
I’m a fan of legal thrillers and the courtroom dance in the narrative proceeds with all the drama a reader could want, the push-pull, win-lose. Written by a former ADA, the author knows the timing, the procedure, the lingo—it’s high drama in itself.
The family appears to survive the process albeit briefly when another event sends the reader back into high-pressure territory, gasping with shock at the turn of events.
And then; the final twist. I don’t care who you are. You never saw this coming. Yes, I know you’ve heard that before. No, trust me. This one is so beyond what you might have imagined it echoes over and over in your head, leaving you with a book hangover. The unthinkable. No do-overs here. You can run it over in your mind. It won’t change. I was almost sick.
Does that mean I wouldn’t recommend it? Are you kidding? This is crazy unique, gripping, heart-pounding, and unquestionably a novel both engaging and entertaining. The narration by Gardner is mesmerizing. (I guess it was turned into a TV series released in 2020.)
I downloaded a copy of this audiobook from my local well-stocked library. These are my honest thoughts.
Genre: Psychological Fiction, Legal Thrillers, Psychological Thrillers
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Listening Length: 12 hrs 24 mins
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Publication Date: January 31, 2012
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Defending Jacob [Amazon]
The Author: William Landay’s latest novel is the New York Times bestseller “Defending Jacob.” His previous novels are “Mission Flats,” which won the Dagger Award as best debut crime novel of 2003, and “The Strangler,” which was an L.A. Times favorite crime novel and was nominated for the Strand Magazine Critics Award as best crime novel of 2007.
Visit the author at http://www.williamlanday.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/williamlanday
Narrator: Grover Gardner is an American narrator of audiobooks. As of May 2018, he has narrated over 1,200 books. He was the Publishers Weekly “Audiobook Narrator of the Year” and is among AudioFile magazine’s “Best Voices of the Century”. Wikipedia
Born: 1956 (age 66 years).
©2022 V Williams