Defending Jacob

What if an assistant district attorney had to defend his fourteen year old son in a murder case? Sound like a television Father’s Day drama? That’s just what William Landay delivers in his courtroom crime story – Defending Jacob. Although the characters follow a formulaic stereotype and some of the dialogue is reminiscent of Mickey Spillane, the plot is fast-paced, easy reading, with enough change-ups to keep you reading.

Jacob’s middle schooler life is a mystery to his parents until one of his classmates is found stabbed in the park adjacent to the school. Suddenly, the bullying, the hidden knife, a fingerprint, and Jake’s loner personality implicate him as the murderer. Landay effectively uses two catalysts in the mix: the internet – citing Facebook, Twitter, and iPads as adding to public suspicion; and the “murder gene” – a genetic tendency to violence.

I’ve had this book on my shelf and decided to give it away to make room, but, first had to read it. A quick read – less gruesome than other crime novels – Defending Jacob has some father/son relationship angst and family-in-crisis warts, but, for the most part – just another good legal thriller – scheduled to come out in a movie theater soon with talk of Michael Shannon playing the father.

The ending came as a surprise; don’t stop reading after court adjourns.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

The signs were too much to ignore – two weeks in a row in the Sunday Times; recommendations from friends who had already read the first two;  and besides, I had a half-off coupon.   So, I gave in and bought the latest Stieg Larsson – The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.  Why not first read the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (it’s already a movie) and The Girl Who Played with Fire?

Nah, might as well get the one that’s hot off the press.    My verdict?

Larsson provides all the ingredients for a good crime thriller – with the flavoring of Swedish government insiders, a Swedish writer with an investigative flair, and “the girl”  with a talent  like no other you’ve encountered.    No matter that I hadn’t read the first two books, like any good writer of sequels, Larssen provides the background – a little tedious but necessary.   You’ll appreciate it even if you’ve been a follower – hard to keep all the similar sounding Swedish “B” names straight.

The foreign flavor with the aura of lethal agents and Russian spy rings, along with the shared vision of incompetence in higher level administrators (the Peter principle evidently is international), made me want to have cheese with buttered bread for breakfast.   The journalistic asides were not compelling, and the explanations tended to drag on, but when Larsson concentrated on the action, I was hooked.

Needless to say, it’s been reviewed and anticipated up and down the literary scene, so if you need a good review to further whet your appetite, try David Kamp’s in the New York Times…