The Ex by Alafair Burke

I regularly receive emails from Goodreads about upcoming and new releases. I don’t know that I otherwise would have come across Alafair Burke’s The Ex, but I am ever so glad that I did. Many of the crime thrillers I’ve come across lately have been written from the perspective of a detective, so it was an interesting change of pace to read from the point of view of the defense attorney. I really enjoyed Mrs. Burke’s writing and character development. I was especially glad that just because the main character was a lawyer, I didn’t feel bogged down with a mess of legal jargon. Alafair Burke told a fast paced and intriguing story without resorting to boring interludes and constantly keeping me on my toes from one chapter to the next. This is my first novel to have ready by her and I loved The Ex. I look forward to reading more by Alafair Burke!


*Spoiler Alert 


The story is told in first person by Olivia Randall, criminal defense attorney at Ellison & Randall. I immediately loved her character. She’s charming, but down to earth; intelligent, but not boastful; interpersonal, but not flawless. One thing I dislike is when writers oversell the main character—making them appear capable of achieving the impossible and miraculously (if not luckily) always finding their way out of a jam. Olivia has the right balance of personality traits to be relatable and realistic.


Two decades after breaking her ex fiancé’s heart in one of the most cruel ways possible, Olivia Randall finds herself on the phone with his sixteen year old daughter, Buckley Harris. Buckley (an odd name that I wish Mrs. Burke would’ve elaborated on the origin of the choice) pleads with Olivia to take her father’s case because Olivia owes him. That’s kind of where this kicks off. Olivia can’t override her guilt and seizes the opportunity to at least make amends by going to Jack Harris’ rescue. However, the case turns out to be a little more complicated than she had anticipated. Turns out, he’s under arrest in a triple homicide. Yikes!


The story moves pretty quickly, but thoroughly, through the details of the crime without instantly answering the one question we all want the answer to: Did he actually commit the crime? Of course, Olivia yo-yos back and forth on whether or to believe he’s guilty and her thoughts had me bouncing back and forth unsure of whether or not to believe Jack’s plea of innocence, either.


On one hand, I don’t want to believe he’s done it because he’s lost his wife a few years prior and is consistently described as level-headed, peaceful, and reserved. Then, there’s the flashes of anger, the lying, and finding out later that he cheated on his late wife Molly (as a teacher with a student—so cliché!).


So basically the story is less of a “whodunnit” and more of a is “he or isn’t he guilty,” not unlike Gone Girl. I liked this a lot because, for me, it was a fresh take on a crime thriller. Mysterious whodunnits can be a bit redundant, so I liked the change of pace this story provided.


The best part of Alafair Burke’s The Ex was the flow of the story. Often times, I run into confusion and lulls, but Mrs. Burke has proven herself to be an exceptional storyteller. I didn’t even realize how quickly I had gone through the book until it was over—I didn’t want to stop reading it!


I can’t say wholeheartedly that this was 5 stars for me, only because the plot wasn’t too terribly original and the twist wasn’t very difficult to guess. But it was definitely a solid 4. The Ex is well written, fast-paced, and absorbing with fantastic character development. I can’t wait to dive into more of Alafair Burke’s work!



© Chelsie Cummings 2016

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