“The ex,” a novel by Alafair Burke is a legal thriller. This murder mystery delves into what would happen if circumstances bring together an estranged couple where one becomes dependent upon the other. Burke, a former prosecutor, details well the legal and trial background within the complexity of relationships.
The plot has one of New York City’s best criminal defense lawyers, Olivia Randall, representing her ex- fiancé, Jack Harris. He has been arrested for a triple homicide that includes a victim connected to his wife’s murder three years earlier.
Burke takes the reader on a journey with Randall as she goes from vehemently believing his innocence to questioning if he is indeed guilty. Part of the reason she agrees to represent Jack is to absolve herself of the guilt, feeling somewhat responsible for his state of mind. Her past regrets are based on the way she chose to end the relationship twenty years ago when she broke his heart in an unimaginable way.
“People who were in your past life, did you ever wonder about them? How did someone in Olivia’s former life turn out?” Burke said. “She was never able to close the book with Jack. Then he suddenly appears in her life in a very shocking way. She remembers the relationship in a certain way, making herself to be the bad person. Feeling guilty about the way she ended it her memories are that she was bad and he was good. But as the book progresses you see not everything is black and white.”
These characters are flawed and each has a dark side. Jack is seen as one of those people who act like a puppy dog in a relationship, always willing to acquiesce. In some ways he was very suffocating. Starting out as friends the relationship evolved because Jack was so dependent on Olivia.
The book also explores “Catfishing,” where Internet predators scam their way into romantic relationships with unsuspecting victims that seek love online. By creating fake profiles on social networking sites, these predators trick people into thinking that they are someone else entirely. Anyone who has ever heard of the Brad Paisley song “Online” will understand that the fabricated life stories and photographs allow people to be “so much cooler online,” creating an unrealistic world that they wish were their own. Readers may remember how this happened to Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o.
Burke noted, “The Room” is based on the “gothamist” website that is New York centrist. I also explore “Catfishing” where someone pretends to be a certain person. My friend is single and does online dating. Someone sent him a message and asked him if he was the person she was conversing with online, because she wanted to meet him in person. She thinks it was my friend because she Googled the image sent to her. Some guy had basically used my friend’s picture to give himself a different identity. The prosecutor in me was worried about the anonymity of the Internet. I told my friend to be very careful, trust but verify times ten.”
With the backdrop of a murder case that can be considered a mass killing the ex explores the guilt and betrayal of people in relationships, past and present. Beyond that readers will also be exposed to the criminal justice system. These are reasons enough to enjoy this legal mystery.