I've rarely enjoyed narrating anything as much as I enjoyed narrating William Landay's Defending Jacob. The writing is superb, the plot twists compelling, and the courtroom aspects of the story are especially well handled. (I don't have to tell you how many so-called "legal thrillers" make a hash of the law.) But more than that, the nature of the first-person narrative afforded me the chance to explore an emotional range that I don't often get to do.
Andy Barber is a man with a story to tell--a complicated story, a terrible story that he both wants to tell and doesn't want to tell. He has to tell it--to a grand jury investigating the aftermath of a tumultuous murder case on a small, upscale Massachusetts suburb. He wants to tell it--to set the record straight as well as find some sense of closure for himself. But he also knows that it's going to be difficult for anyone else to understand--or even believe--what happened and why.
Complicating this act of self-revelation and confession is the fact that Andy, by his own admission, has some serious credibility issues. As the story progresses, we learn that he is very adept at withholding information--from his colleagues, his friends and his family. The question becomes what, if anything, he is withholding from us.
When I spoke with Landay for Blackstone Audio's series of blog interviews, he immediately took exception to my use of the term "unreliable narrator." Landay pointed out, rightly I think, that Andy is reliable--as reliable as he can be, given that he's confronted with a series of wrenching emotional dilemmas. It's not that he isn't telling the truth, but there's something about the way he chooses to parcel out the story that keeps the listener in a state of constant uncertainty about what is really going on.
Few things are quite as satisfying for an actor as the chance to portray a flawed character, one who forces the the audience to continually reexamine its loyalties. Defending Jacob offered just such a chance and I'm grateful for the opportunity. Regardless of whether you're a fan of the courtroom genre or not, Defending Jacob is an exceptionally good novel from any point of view.