SPOILER ALERT –
Andy Barber, Assistant DA in a small town in Massachusetts is the narrator of this story…he is also the father of Jacob. The story opens when a fourteen year old boy, Ben Rifkin, is found stabbed in a park. Andy takes over the case and for a week, it looks as if there at no leads. Then, abruptly, officers appear at his house, along with Assistant DA Neal Logidice, and Andy and his wife, Laurie's nightmare begins. Evidence has been found pointing to their son, Jacob, as the murderer.
The towns people, as well as the media, assume Jacob's guilt. He not only bought a knife, said he would kill Ben if he continued to harass and bully him, but told this to a friend… his finger print was found on Ben’s sweatshirt! Hard evidence for me to not believe he was involved!
And, interestingly, he published an original story on the Internet, which had the basic outlines of the murder though the names were changed.
The family fear an attempt to use a 'murder gene' as evidence( Andy' father has been in jail for fifty years for murder), they go to a renowned Harvard psychologist, who interviews both the family and Andy. She ends up more or less admitting that Jacob has the make up of a potential killer, a lack of empathy, a emotional intelligence of a seven year old. Neither of these prove he did the crime; they just suggest that he had the capacity and indifference to do it. Andy never believes this; Laurie begins to doubt. Andy visits Bloody Billy Barber in jail and the story takes a turn!
Towards the end, all looks lost when a suspect named Paltz, an admitted pedophile, hangs himself and confesses, in a note, his guilt for the crime. Jacob is released, all seems well but Andy knows better. His father has a friend, Father O'Reilly, a fixer of problems so to speak, who to save Jacob, has most likely arranged the suicide. Andy never tells his suspicions to the court or his wife.
The Barber’s lives try to go back to normal after the trail ends with Jacob's exoneration. They enjoy dinner together as a family….they make the decision to get away from it all.
Vacation in Jamaica:
The family goes on vacation to Waves Resort in Jamaica. On the bus ride Jacob sit by a girl, Hope. After arriving at the resort Jacob and Hope spend endless hours together. Jacob’s parents were glad to finally see him happy again. There words, “We finally have Hope!” A few days a phone call comes from Hope’s mom asking if she was with Jacob. Of course, she wasn’t! They ask Jacob about her and he just shrugs his shoulders telling them he hadn’t seen her. Hopes body was found several weeks later. Her decomposing body had been eaten by marine life, but they were able to say that her windpipe had been crushed before entering the water. Jacob was questioned by Jamaican police, but was never arrested for the crime because there was no real evidence.
Mom takes Jacob to a meeting for his new school. They never arrive because she had other plans. She thought about this for a long time. Her son couldn’t live like this so she took her seatbelt off, Jacob wasn’t wearing his, told Jacob she loved him and then the car began to accelerate and started to veer off on to the shoulder. Jacob noticed what was happening, he tried to put on his seatbelt but it was too late. They hit the bridge abutment – a solid concrete wall which ended in a violent crash leading to Jacob’s death. Some how mom survives.
The novel ends with Andy at a Grand Jury hearing, defending his wife against accusations of murder, the murder of her son.
I thought the book was very readable and once again I wasn’t able to put this one down. I was hooked hoping for the best but expecting the worst, right from the start. I would not have been a good jury person…I was convinced from the beginning that Jacob was guilty!
**All images from Google Image Search