DEFENDING JACOB is narrated by Andy Barber, a 51 year old assistant District Attorney in Newton, Connecticut. When a teenage boy and classmate of Barber’s son Jacob is murdered on his way to school one morning Barber leaps into the investigation. After a slow start, largely due to a lack of cooperation from the high school students who were friends and classmates of the victim, seems to point in the direction of a local man who has been accused of indecent assault. But while Barber pursues that line of investigation other players in the Newton law enforcement community are chasing a different suspect: Barber’s own son. When they believe they have enough evidence they confront Barber and issue an arrest warrant for Jacob. What follows is an accounting of Jacob’s trial and the impact it and the surrounding media and social scrutiny all have on the Barber family.
From a storytelling point of view I found the book uneven. The title tells us that Jacob is going to need defending so I was waiting for that point from the very first sentence and it seemed to take a heck of a long time to get there. Once we got to what I thought of as the starting point the book did pick up pace and drew readers into the familiar but nevertheless compelling consideration of whether or not Jacob was innocent but would be locked up or was guilty but would be set free. The depiction of the teenage social scene was a particularly successful aspect of the book. However I could have done without the major plot line revolving around the notion of an inherited propensity towards violence. It is a theme that has been explored many times over and while that in itself is not a reason to avoid it forever more I didn’t think it added anything to this story which dealt with the issue in a fairly superficial and uninteresting way. It felt like it had been added for shock value as no one, least of all the characters who were meant to, seemed to have any real convictions about ‘the murder gene’ notion one way or the other.
As far as individual characters go the book is a miss for me. It’s not so much that none of the three family members is particularly likeable or sympathetic (though they’re not) but that I didn’t find them to be very strongly drawn on any scale which made them insipid. Worse though is that they did not seem very credible, especially the mother. Her husband describes Laurie as a warm, outgoing person with many friends and a strong connection to her community and her own family. Yet she totally withdraws from her parents immediately and every single one of her so-called friends abandons her (again with immediate effect). Even I, anti-social introvert that I am, could drum up one or two good friends who would stand by me in a crisis so I found it a stretch to swallow that she would not have had one person who stood by her in the horrific circumstances. Nor did I believe she would withdraw so immediately from her own family. The depiction of Andy’s development of highly disparaging views on the legal system he had worked his whole life in also failed my ‘ring of truth’ test. For me both of these things would have felt more realistic if they’d been depicted as happening more gradually than both parties having woken up the day after Jacob’s arrest with an entirely new set of beliefs and behaviours from what they’d had the day before. As a collective character though the Barber family and its implosion is the best aspect of the book for me.
I didn’t hate this book but nor did I love it and on balance there were more niggly bits than there ought to have been. Even the editing seemed to have missed some continuity issues such as the fact that Barber tells us the man who prosecuted Jacob’s case went into private practice following the trial yet he appears to be questioning Andy in a subsequent grand jury investigation (transcripts of which pepper the entire book). Personally I wouldn’t recommend this book but having looked around at reviews it’s clear I am in the minority so, as always, you should make up your own minds. If you are an audiobook devotee you could do far worse than listening to Eric Meyers narrate it as I thought he did an excellent job.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating 2.5/5
Narrator Eric Meyers
Publisher Whole Story Audiobooks 
Length 14 hours 44 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series standalone
Source I bought it
This work by http://reactionstoreading.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.