Book review: The Ex by Alafair Burke

Friday, February 19, 2016 Permalink

I know I’ve mentioned this before… but I’m a huge fan of US author Alafair Burke.

I love her Ellie Hatcher and Samantha Kincaid series’ and adored her standalone novels and enjoyed her recent collaborations with Mary Higgins Clark.

Book review: The Ex by Alafair BurkeThe Ex
by Alafair Burke
Published by Faber
on January 26th, 2016
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction, Legal Procedural
ISBN: 9780571328154
Pages: 288

Widower Jack Harris has resisted the dating scene ever since the shooting of his wife Molly by a fifteen-year-old boy three years ago. An early morning run along the Hudson River changes that when he spots a woman in last night’s party dress, barefoot, enjoying a champagne picnic alone, reading his favorite novel. Everything about her reminds him of what he used to have with Molly. Eager to help Jack find love again, his best friend posts a message on a popular website after he mentions the encounter. Days later, that same beautiful stranger responds and invites Jack to meet her in person at the waterfront. That’s when Jack’s world falls apart.

Olivia Randall is one of New York City’s best criminal defense lawyers. When she hears that her former fiancé, Jack Harris, has been arrested for a triple homicide—and that one of the victims was connected to his wife’s murder—there is no doubt in her mind as to his innocence.

The only question is who would go to such great lengths to frame him—and why?

For Olivia, representing Jack is a way to make up for past regrets, to absolve herself of guilt from a tragic decision, a secret she has held for twenty years. But as the evidence against him mounts, she is forced to confront her doubts. The man she knew could not have done this.

But what if she never really knew him?

I adored this book and was (in fact) hoping it was going to be the start of a series featuring the flawed but fabulous defence lawyer Olivia Randall.

However, the inclusion of an epilogue (set in the future) is mostly likely an indication that this will not be the case. #bummer

Anyhoo… I must learn to live in the moment… and Burke delivers on all fronts with this new release.

She writes well and knows her stuff. As a former Deputy DA and law professor she brings a level of detail and complexity that’s entertaining, rather than too technical. While I love her Ellie Hatcher series, her legal expertise adds an additional level of authenticity and depth when it comes to legal procedurals.

As for the plot: it’s interesting and littered with stacks of twists and turns. I actually guessed the outcome (and the twist) but then again I read too many thrillers and suspense novels and watch too many crime dramas.

So it’s well-written with a great plot… but the strength of this book for me is Burke’s characters.

Olivia is a wonderful protagonist. Far from perfect she’s hard on herself and others. She’s talented but hasn’t had everything her own way… changing paths after failing to get a partnership with a large law firm.

As an aside, this particular detail wasn’t essential – it did however add to the texture and complexity of Olivia’s character. It was seamlessly wound into the novel along with other back story and historical info, all of which made Olivia very real and this novel addictive.

Olivia is now partnered up with her bestie’s uncle and prone to a big night out on the booze, regularly grappling with hangovers and late starts. Her love life’s fraught and she holds a candle for a long lost love. Sort of.

Olivia is a talented and inspired lawyer. She has integrity but is prepared to roll up her sleeves and play dirty when her clients are in trouble.

So, I LOVED Olivia. In case you didn’t guess. Her support cast as strong as well and she has a history with all players (including Jack and his long-term bestie), so they know each other well.

These past relationships add to this novel – posing questions as to whether it’s possible to ‘go back’. Readers are also forced to ponder how well we can know those from our past, whether they’ve changed and / or whether we knew them at all.

The Ex offers far more than your usual police / legal procedural and I highly recommend it.

The Ex by Alafair Burke was released in Australia via Allen & Unwin on 26 January 2016.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 

  • Stormi D Johnson
    February 19, 2016

    Not heard of this author so I should look her up. 🙂

    • Debbish
      February 20, 2016

      Oh no Stormi! You must check her out. And follow her on Facebook as I love her updates. She’s great and hangs out with other authors so it’s great to see that stuff.

  • Kathryn
    February 20, 2016

    Hmm I have been seeing this book in a lot of places so when I saw you had a review up had to take a look. I as you know am not a big thriller reader but I like legal ones and this could be one I’d enjoy.

    • Debbish
      February 20, 2016

      There’s not a huge focus on the crime itself or even the investigation – as it kinda kicks off after the crime when the police already have a suspect.

  • Michelle Weaver (@pinkypoinker)
    February 20, 2016

    You had me at “Readers are also forced to ponder how well we can know those from our past, whether they’ve changed and / or whether we knew them at all.” Sounds intriguing.

    • Debbish
      February 20, 2016

      I love Alafair Burke Michelle and this is almost certainly my fave of her books. So much to consider…

  • Jess
    February 20, 2016

    Oh this sounds amazing! Exactly my kind of book!

    • Debbish
      February 23, 2016

      I’m sure you’d enjoy it Jess!

  • danielaark
    February 21, 2016

    I’m not a big fan of crime books but I’m glad you enjoy it 🙂 Olivia does seem like an engaging character 🙂

  • Rita @ View From My Home
    February 25, 2016

    I just love crime fiction so I should pick this one up. I think I saw it last time I was at the library. I haven’t read any series by her either. Which one would you recommend starting off with, or do you have a favorite? Thanks.

    • Debbish
      February 25, 2016

      This is a standalone Rita so I’d suggest starting off with this as it’s probably my favourite of hers!

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