In this breakout standalone thriller in the tradition of Gillian Flynn, William Landay and Paula Hawkins, a lawyer agrees to help an old boyfriend who has been accused of murder-but begins to suspect that she is the one being manipulated.
Widower Jack Harris has resisted the dating scene 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 eerily but thrillingly echoes his past. Eager to help Jack find love again, his best friend posts a “Missed Moment” item online and days later, a woman responds…
Olivia Randall is one of New York City’s best criminal defense 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 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, 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 done this. But what if she never really knew him?
This is the first of Alafair Burke’s novels I have read, but it certainly won’t be the last. I do like a good legal thriller and this certainly qualifies. It is a fast and engaging read. Not especially challenging, but it tells a compelling story and gives you characters who are sufficiently flawed to allow you to believe in them.
Olivia is an emotional mess; she messed up big time with ex- fiancé Jack many years ago and since then her emotional engagement has been little more than surface deep with anyone.
Her sexual morality is certainly questionable, but her legal skills are decent. So when, out of the blue, Jack’s daughter, Buckley contacts her to say that Jack has been taken into custody for murder, Olivia promises to do what she can to get him out of jail.
None of the characters in this courtroom drama are especially likeable, but you can’t help liking Olivia for her self-awareness, if not for the pretty huge mistakes she has made in the past.
I was rather less impressed with the change of personality at the end of the book, but I’m guessing that the inconsistency is reflective of a guilt finally overcome – though that could perhaps have been rather better communicated.
It’s not difficult to work out who was responsible for the triple killings – but then there aren’t that many characters to choose from. Nevertheless, that doesn’t detract from a well plotted book with a fast pace and a good narrative.
A solid three stars.
The Ex is published by Faber and Faber on February 4th 2016