2013-03-07 / Columns

Off the Bookshelf

By Maralee Kalianoff

Defending Jacob

After reading “Defending Jacob” by William Landay, I learned that Landay was a former district attorney with degrees from Yale and Boston College Law School; no surprise there.

In “Defending Jacob,” Andy Barber is an assistant district attorney in the Boston suburb of Newton. He is successful, and happy, in his work. He adores his wife and loves their only child, 14-year-old Jacob. He feels extremely lucky with his lot in life, particularly considering his past. His father, whom he barely knew, is in prison for murder, and his paternal grandfather was also convicted of murder. He has buried, and tried to forget, his ancestry; he has never even mentioned his rogue relatives to his wife, Laurie, who came from a picture-perfect background of upstanding citizens.

When a 14-year-old boy turns up dead in a park on his way to school, Barber is called to the scene. He discovers he knows the victim, a classmate of Jacob’s. When Barber’s detective friend informs him that a child molester who has failed to report his status with the authorities lives in the immediate area and jogs in the park regularly, Barber feels he has his man.

As Andy Barber is busy pursuing convicted child molester Lenny Patz, he is suddenly pulled off the case. It seems that, when police began interviewing students at the victim’s school, several of them indicatedAndy’s son, Jacob, as a possible suspect. Arrested soon after, Jacob is eventually on trial, being defended by his attorney with his dad as his co-defender.

The evidence produced by the prosecution is mostly circumstantial. But tempers and emotions run wild in a small affluent town when a child is murdered. Based on the evidence presented,Andy Barber is convinced his son will be found Not Guilty. After weighing the emotional aspect, however, a verdict is more difficult to predict.

Although mysteries are not ordinarily my novel of choice, “Defending Jacob” rates right up there as being one of the best books I have read in a long time. I was so pleased with myself, an unseasoned mystery reader, in knowing how this story would end; and I was right. Except the story didn’t actually END there, so technically I was wrong. Needless to say, the book captured and held my attention throughout.

Mystery writer Lisa Unger summed up “Defending Jacob” the best: “So wellwritten, every character so movingly and convincingly drawn, the plot so utterly enthralling…. ‘Defending Jacob’ is absolutely stellar, first-rate fiction; human, sensitive and gripping in the extreme.”

Mystery Lovers (and I know there are many of you), if for some reason “Defending Jacob” has thus far not made your must-read list, make sure it does.

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If a book you are looking for is not available at the Harry L. Petrie Library, Librarian Carla Frison will be happy to obtain it from the North Dakota State Library for you. If you return the book to the State Library in Bismarck within the allotted time, there is no charge. The staff can return it by mail but will have to charge you for postage.

Hours for the library in Linton are Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed on Tuesdays, 2-5 p.m. on Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and 2-5 p.m. on Friday. Friends of the Library meets every first Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Library. Everyone is welcome.

To contact Maralee, e-mail her: bonus73@hotmail.com and put Off the Bookshelf in the subject line.

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