Friday 5 February 2016

The Ex by Alafair Burke

In this breakout standalone thriller, a lawyer agrees to help an old boyfriend who has been accused of murder - but begins to suspect the she is being manipulated.
Widower Jack Harris has resisted dating since the shooting of his wife by a fifteen-year-old boy three years ago. An early morning run along the Hudson River changes that when he spots a woman who echoes his past. Eager to help Jack find love again, his best friend posts a 'Missed Moment' item online. Days later, a woman responds ...
Olivia Randall is one of New York City's best criminal defence lawyers. When she gets the phone call informing her that her former fiance, Jack Harris, has been arrested for a triple homicide there is no doubt in her mind that he is innocent.
For Olivia, representing Jack is a way to make up for past regrets, and the hurt she caused him, but as the evidence against him mounts, she is forced to confront her doubts. The man she knew could not have one this, but what if she never really knew him?

The Ex by Alafair Burke was published by Faber on 4 February 2016.

I don't read a lot of American police procedural books, it's not really a conscious decision that I've made, it's just something that has happened over the years. I was really interested to take a look at this stand-alone novel from Alafair Burke, especially as she was previously a Deputy District Attorney, so I was confident that the writing would be authentic.

Although The Ex is indeed a police procedural novel, with lots of court-room drama and plenty of clue-solving, it is also, as the title would suggest, a story that relies heavily on the past relationship of the the two main characters.

When Olivia Randall receives a phone call informing her that Jack Harris has been arrested for a triple murder, she is shocked. Olivia is a hugely successful defence lawyer in New York, Jack is a popular and well-respected author. Olivia and Jack have history, they dated years ago and Olivia broke his heart, in fact she shattered his heart. Olivia agrees to represent Jack, despite their history, in fact it's because of their history that she makes the decision. She's never got over her guilt about how she treated him, despite the fact that he went on to marry and have a child.

The case is complex and Jack's story seems as though it is something that he has dreamed up for one of the plots in his novels.  He was running in the park, she saw a young woman sitting in an evening gown, drinking from a bottle of champagne and reading a copy of his favourite novel. For the first time since his wife was shot dead, he's interested in another woman. Eventually, he tracks her down and they arrange to meet again. But she doesn't show, so Jack goes home, leaving behind the picnic basket that she had asked him to bring. In the same place, at the same time, three people are shot dead. One of the victims is the father of the boy who shot Jack's wife; a man who Jack and the other victim's relatives hold responsible for the tragedy. And people know how Jack feels. Is it a coincidence? Is Jack innocent?

Alafair Burke writes a good story, the plot twists and turns, the detail is convincing and there are plenty of surprises. However, I couldn't warm to either of the main characters at all. Olivia, despite her feelings of guilt towards Jack, is a bit of a cold fish who continues to make some quite odd decisions. Jack himself is quite annoying. I know that a reader doesn't have to like all of the characters in a book, and some of my favourite fictional people have been quite awful characters, but I do think that the reader is supposed to like Olivia and Jack, and I just didn't.

Despite my lack of concern for the characters, I was impressed by the writing. Alafair Burke clearly knows her stuff and the legal procedural stuff is gripping, and it's not a bad plot at all.

My thanks to Lauren from Faber who sent my copy for review.

Alafair Burke's books include the standalone thrillers Long Gone and If You Were Here - an Amazon Best Mystery Novel of 2013 - and her acclaimed series starring NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher, the most recent of which, Never Tell, was a Kindle bestseller.
A former Deputy District Attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair is now a Professor of Law at Hofstra Law School, where she teaches criminal law and procedure.

More information about Alafair Burke and her writing can be found on her website
Follow her on Twitter @alafairburke
Find her Author page on Facebook


1 comment:

  1. I know what you mean about the main characters. Plot wise I needed the exceptional clarity of explanation to understand the due process of the American legal system (thank goodness I had watched The Good Wife), so in some ways it's not a naturally easy read for someone unfamiliar with the American system. Would we in England actually hold a parent responsible for their child's actions and go on to prosecute them, I wonder??? That felt so unfamiliar to the UK system that I was struggling with a bit of credulity but Alafair is previously a Deputy District Attorney so she must know her stuff!