May 15, 2017

Book Review: The Ex by Alafair Burke

Twenty years ago she ruined his life. Now she has the chance to save it.

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 fiancĂ©, 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?

Right from the get go, the reader expects a twist to this narrative. Can a guy as nice and with such a tragic past as Jack Harris have concocted an elaborate ruse just to murder three strangers in cold blood?

Olivia Randall, Jack’s old girlfriend and top notch defense lawyer is convinced that the guy she used to know couldn’t possibly have done it. But as she delves deeper and deeper into Jack’s life, her conviction begins to falter.  Everything the reader finds out about Jack contrasts sharply with all the terrible things Olivia did to Jack twenty years ago. Both are very flawed human beings.

I did end up guessing the “twist” about ¾ of the way in, but until then, my foundations were on shaky ground, switching theories about every other chapter or so with each surprising revelation. The legal details were realistic – I do hate it when crime novels gloss over or completely ignore the legal part for the sake of convenience. Burke’s law background tells and strengthens an already tight and fast moving narrative.

This was a quick, well-paced read for me. Nothing gasp-inducing like Gone Girl, but a good diversion.

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