“The Ex” by Alafair Burke

"The Ex" by Alafair Burke.I enjoyed All Dressed In White, co-written by Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke, so much that I decided I should try out one of Burke’s own novels. The Ex is her newest book, but she’s written at least 10 others (as well as numerous law-review articles, like “Reconciling Professional Ethics and Prosecutorial Power: The No Contact Rule Debate,” which I suspect isn’t much of a page-turner).

Burke, a law professor who previously worked as an deputy district attorney, brings an insider’s grasp of the legal profession to her story about a lawyer who winds up defending her ex-fiancé. Jack Harris stands accused of committing a ghastly crime: murdering three people in cold blood. He swears he’s innocent, but the fact that one of the victims was a man Jack bitterly hated makes it look like an open-and-shut case. Complicating matters is Jack’s daughter, Buckley, a young teen whom he’s been raising as a single dad after his wife Molly was killed some years before.

Buckley is the one who initially reaches out to Olivia Randall, begging her to defend Jack. Because Olivia and Jack had a complicated history—one which comes into greater focus as the book progresses—she’s reluctant, but their relationship was long in the past, so it’s not a problem ethically. And due to her cheating on him during their engagement, which ultimately caused its end, Olivia feels she owes it to Jack to provide him with a vigorous defense; perhaps if he goes free, she can finally let go of some of the guilt she’s carried for so many years.

I found The Ex to be just as riveting as All Dressed In White, and while Olivia (who drinks too much and is having an affair with a married man) is more of a flawed heroine than that book’s Laurie Moran, I’ve always been OK with protagonists who are less than perfect. Besides, The Ex is something of a redemption story; Olivia has to forgive herself before she can move on with her life. No one is harder on her than she is on herself.

My only complaint would be that one of the plot twists reminded me a little too much of a similar case on “Law & Order,” but that show was on the air for 20 years, so it probably covered just about everything first. After reading both The Ex and All Dressed In White, I’m definitely looking forward to exploring Burke’s previous novels.

Side Note: Burke has an adorable French Bulldog named Double. A minor character in The Ex is “a low-level drug dealer” named Double Simpson. I have to imagine this is not a coincidence, and I just love the fact that she named a character after her dog!

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