I’ve got a cup of delicious Chai tea in front of me, and I’m wishing I’d thought to buy a treat from the market yesterday to have with it, but alas, it’s just my tea mug, sitting alone on the coffee table. Good thing it has a wonderful book nearby to keep it from getting lonely!
I read a book last week that we are going to be discussing at my Friends’ book club meeting on May 9th, Defending Jacob by William Landay. I had to read it so early because my Volunteer book club is meeting on May 7th to discuss Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, and I wanted to read that one this week. Both are fairly lengthy books, and although very different types of novels, both are wonderful reads in my opinion. I listened to Defending Jacob as an audiobook in July 2012 and was very impressed with it, so when a member of my Friends book club suggested it, I readily agreed. Told mainly from the point of view of Andy Barber, an Assistant District Attorney in an upscale town just outside of Boston, this novel begins with the investigation into the brutal murder of a fourteen-year-old boy in the wooded area of the park just beyond the elementary school. Ben Rifkin, a handsome, popular eighth-grade student, is discovered one morning by a jogger - he had been stabbed multiple times and left to die just off one of the many pathways as he was walking to school. The police call in one of their most senior detectives, Paul Duffy, to lead the investigation. Duffy, working alongside Barber, faces numerous obstacles, including trying to interview fellow classmates, and comes up with no clear suspects. They finally set their sights on Leonard Patz, a known paedophile who may or may not have been in the area at the time of the murder. When one of Ben’s classmates suggests that Barber’s son, fourteen-year-old Jacob, had a knife which he brought to school and which he threatened to use if Ben continued to bully him, Barber chooses to turn a blind eye and focus instead on Patz, despite lack of evidence and witness reports. When Jacob is finally charged with the murder and Barber is taken off the case, he pairs up with the defense attorney to help save Jacob from being found guilty, a verdict that he feels may result even though he claims to believe that his son is innocent. Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention that Andy’s father, Bloody Billy Barber, has been incarcerated for decades for the murder of a young girl. Does murder run in the Barber family? Using several plot twists, this novel arrives at an astonishing ending that shocked this reader, despite having vague recollections of it from my previous listening experience. I certainly didn’t remember the details, so it was still quite surprising. I’ll admit that some of the details in the book were contrived, and Barber’s refusal to see the truth, his insistence on burying his head in the sand, was somewhat frustrating, but not so much as to detract from the overall readability of this book. I found it unputdownable, the type of legal thriller page-turner I so enjoy indulging in, and which I can’t find often enough. Many legal thrillers are too flashy, with main characters who are larger-than-life (and not in the good way!), or crimes that are so convoluted as to make them totally unbelievable. In this novel I felt that, while every detail may not pass the “credibility test”, in general, most of the story and the characters were fairly believable, at least to me. It was so much more than just a legal thriller; it was also an exploration into the lengths a parent will go to protect his or her child. It was like We Need to Talk about Kevin “light”, with Andy being the opposite of Eva in that he doesn’t believe his son capable of this heinous crime, while Eva believes her son could do all of that and more! I’m sure we’ll have a lively discussion about this book in a week’s time, but for now, I would rate it an 8.5/10. As I was reading it, I was thinking that it would make a great movie, and in fact it is, according to the Internet Movie Database, “in production” - I would definitely see this movie!
That’s all for today. I think the weather is calling for lots of rain, which to me translates into lots of reading time!
Bye for now…