Word on the street was that this novel was twisty and tense...a legal thriller-turned-emotional punch in the stomach. It was compared to Presumed Innocent. The film rights have been purchased by Warner Brothers. There was no reason in this world for me not to read this. I'm so glad I did.
Synopsis: Andy Barber is a man who has two priorities in his life...his family (wife Laurie, son Jacob) and his job as Assistant District Attorney. But when his 14 year-old son is accused of murdering a classmate, all that he holds dear is threatened.
Andy is steadfast in the defense of his son's innocence. Sure, Jacob is quiet and doesn't fit in with the popular crowd at school. Maybe he is even bullied a little bit. But he is a good kid, right? Social media and interviews with Jacob's friends reveal a whole different side to Jacob though. Then there is the issue of the disputed "murder gene". Andy's father and grandfather were killers (a fact Andy wished could have remained hidden)...could Jacob have inherited this tendency for violence? As Andy's marriage crumbles and he considers the possibility of Jacob's guilt, he wonders if his life will ever return to normal.
My thoughts: There are just some books that strike fear in the heart of a parent. What if? "We Need To Talk About Kevin" just devastated me, for example. Being a card-carrying member of Over-thinkers Anonymous, I tend to turn my attention inward, asking myself if I am doing the best for my kids, whether I am missing vital clues to whether they are disturbed and about to go off the deep end. This novel had a similar effect on me. It didn't flatten me the way Kevin did, but it made me very uncomfortable.
And I think Landay knows this. He knows exactly what he is doing. The plot starts out predictably enough. But it diverts into deeper waters early on, and he probes into the recesses of your heart with his questions and issues. The online personalities of our children versus the ones we see in real life. The consequences of bullying. The self-doubt of parenting...did day care screw them up? Was I too permissive? The confrontation of a parent spending a lifetime in prison. To what extent would I go to protect my child? Would I break the law for them or die for them?
I had been warned there were drastic twists at the conclusion of the book. I thought I had them figured out. Like when I was reading Kevin, I knew it wasn't going to be good. But I'm not sure I was prepared for either ending. It was satisfying in the sickest possible way. I anxiously await the transformation of this one to film.
A few words about the audio production: Our narrator was Grover Gardener, who was a new voice for me. It appears that he narrates primarily in the genres of classics and non-fiction, but he did a respectable job here. I'd happily listen to him again.
4 out of 5 stars