Because Ideas Matter...
The faculty and staff of Butler University's College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences presents
by William Landay, Random House, 2012
Reviewed by Larry Riggs
This is the third book by Landay, a former prosecutor. It's the
first one I've read, and it is good enough to motivate me to read
the other two. The book is legally and psychologically complex and
convincing. Jacob is the fourteen-year-old son of Andy Barber, an
assistant district attorney and head prosecutor. When one of
Jacob's classmates is found murdered, Andy, as chief prosecutor, is
in charge of the investigation. Andy's longtime underling and
protégé points out that, since the victim is connected to Andy's
son, Andy's role may become ethically questionable. The protégé has
a point, but he is also voraciously ambitious and, Andy assumes,
after Andy's job. When suspicion focuses on Jacob, Andy is taken
off the case, and his expertise as a prosecutor complicates his
role as a father. As the plot unfolds, we are never sure whether
Andy is right to be certain of Jacob's innocence, or in denial.
Through legal maneuvering, psychiatric evaluation of Jacob,
increasing tension between Andy and his wife, and a very intense
trial, our ambivalence about Andy and Jacob grows. Landay regularly
suspends the narrative and gives us excerpts from a grand jury
proceeding in which Andy is being questioned by his former protégé.
We are not sure just what is at issue before the grand jury and how
it is related to Jacob's case. Landay's technique works very well;
it heightens the tension while preserving the ambiguity. This is a
good read with interesting real-life implications and a shattering
- Larry Riggs is Professor of French at Butler University.