Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Defending Jacob and The Strangler

Defending Jacob was my first William Landay book, but not the last.

A teenage boy has been murdered in a quiet comfortable Massachusetts town outside Boston.  The stabbing sets the town on edge.  Andy Barber, the town's assistant district attorney is thrust into the investigation, but Barber himself is soon under a cloud of suspicion when his son Jacob is arrested for the murder.  Did Barber misdirect the investigation to protect his son?  Barber fervently pursues clues to exonerate his innocent son, but the outlook is very bleak.

The unfolding of the case is intermingled with courtroom events.  Throughout runs the intimate detail of the Barber family in crisis and the shifting relationships as information unfolds about both father and son.

Reading this book is like looking in a fun house mirror.  Images shift and fade, and good and evil morph into each other.  A thoroughly engrossing read.

Reading Defending Jacob whetted my appetite for another Landay book, and I chose an earlier book, The Strangler.

This is another book where evil and good shift back and forth.  At the centre of this are three totally disparate characters, the Daley brothers:  Joe the cop, Ricky the thief and Michael the lawyer.  Once again, Landay's characterization is deft and incisive; as events unfold more is revealed about these three characters.

With these strong characters in the foreground, the background is richly filled in by the mother Margaret Daley, the looming presence of Joe Senior, a policeman recently killed on the job, and family friend and Daley Senior's former partner Brendan Connor.  Which of these people are good and which are evil?  Is the answer as obvious as it looks at first?  The mystery of the Boston strangler is just the backdrop to the unfolding of character.

In a way, another character in the book is the city of Boston itself.  And it's an evil city for sure, filled with violent ambitious criminals and complicit conniving public officials.

This is another great read, and I am a confirmed William Landay fan.

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