I love a good thriller. Always have. But I’ll admit that I’m a bit picky. I don’t love all of them, and if I’ve read it before, I don’t want to read it again. When I think of what makes a good thriller, I imagine an older married couple. The husband asks the wife, “Where would you like to go for our anniversary?” The wife says, “I don’t know. Somewhere different. Surprise me.”
As a reader who’s been in this relationship with thrillers for a while, I want what the wife wants: I want a book to take me somewhere I’ve never been before; I want to have no clue where I’m going; and I want to be surprised by what I find when I get there.
That’s why I loved William Landay’s Defending Jacob. It succeeds on all fronts. Andy Barber is a respected district attorney in suburban Massachusetts, but his world is shattered when his own teenage son becomes the main suspect in the murder of a local kid. From that starting point, nothing goes where you think it will. What results is a sophisticated, deeply disturbing and morally challenging novel that pits a father’s loyalty to his son against his core beliefs in justice and the rule of law.
Not every writer prompts the literary community to offer up praise on a platter, but Landay’s novel has, eliciting advance quotes from Lee Child, Nicholas Sparks, Chevy Stevens and Linwood Barclay (from whom I first heard a rave about this book).
That’s all I’m going to say about it. Pick it up. I can promise that you’ll be led somewhere different, that you’ll never know where you’re heading, and that in the end, you’ll be surprised. What could be more thrilling than that?