The following two books certainly fall into the classic legal thrillers genre. Both written by former lawyers.

They are Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow and Defending Jacob by William Landay.

So here are my two reviews.

Presumed InnocentPresumed Innocent by Scott Turow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s many years since I saw the movie. It was good but nowhere as near as good as the book.

I really can’t do much better than copy the blurb and tell you if you have never read this book, get it right now! It’s a masterpiece. Key words: tangled web.

Prosecutor Rusty Sabich enters a nightmare world when Carolyn, a beautiful attorney with whom he has been having an affair, is found raped and strangled. He stands accused.

Fighting to prove his innocence, Rusty uncovers a tangled web of sex, corruption and betrayal. With no one to trust, it’s up to Rusty to uncover who is really behind this deadly crime .

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Defending JacobDefending Jacob by William Landay
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Two stars means okay. It was nearly three but that means ‘I like it.’ I did not overall.

There were parts I did like and liked very much. But overall this book irked me. Maybe it was because I read it after just finishing Presumed Innocent. That was a masterpiece.

Without any spoilers, this book is essentially a nature vs nurture argument. To me, that argument is best left to a non-fiction book in the context of crime and criminality. I don’t want it thrown into my fiction reading in such a mish-mash and diluted fashion.

The other problem I had with this book is the characters. Not one of the main characters is likeable. Indeed they are despicable for one reason or another meaning I couldn’t care less about Jacob or his parents. That is a major flaw in the premise of the book: ‘in the face of every parent’s worst nightmare, they will do anything to defend their child. Because, deep down, they know him better than anyone.’

The author had the most annoying habit of introducing a seemingly important event but wanders off into excruciatingly irrelevant details. I’m screaming ‘get on with it!’

Witness the bumping into Dan Rifkin at the Whole Foods store: “Dan Rifkin guided his cart into the checkout line besides ours. He was five feet away …” This is the dead boy’s father and I’m waiting for the confrontation but instead Landay writes, “… He wore … His belt was canvas … embroidered pattern of little ships’ anchors… ” Yadiyadiya. So what!

That kind of annoying stuff was repeated ad infinitum through the book.

The ending was weak. Thoroughly disappointed as this book came highly recommended.

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Just some further thoughts: one of the reasons I love these type of books is my own legal background – nearly thirty years both as a detective and then a barrister (trial attorney).

Turow has real characters. By that, I mean people such as lawyers, cops, and a judge I can really identify with. Landay, on the other hand doesn’t do that for me.

Landay in Defending Jacob is full of pretentious BS. In his reading notes at the end of the book, he draws a distinction between genre fiction and literary fiction. He is clear he wants Defending Jacob to be placed in the latter category.

Some of his ramblings are also pretentious. He bangs on about Facebook and the jury system. For a former lawyer, he seems to have no faith in the jury system.

I. for one, do not share his views on the jury system in common law countries. It’s not perfect, but I know I would rather be tried by my peers rather than a tribunal consisting of a judge or judges only.

In 1956 Lord Devlin, a UK Judge, wrote:“Trial by jury is more than an instrument of justice and more than a wheel of the constitution; it is the lamp that shows that freedom lives.”





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