The Ex


Jack was tapping the table so loudly that my head was starting to throb, my hangover resurfacing. I knew that every minute that passed without him getting moved to MDC was a good sign, but Jack was growing more anxious by the second. I pulled a notepad from my briefcase and slid it across the table iwth a pen. “Your computer information.”…
Wow, Jack on Twitter. Somehow I had missed that on my late-night drunken cyber-stalking over the years. “Passwords, too,” I said.
“It’s the same for everything, down at the bottom of the page.”
Volunteered to go to the station, didn’t lawyer up, consented to a GSR swab, and one password for every account. He was still the same naive Jack. At least the password wasn’t “password.” He had written Jack less-than-three S Molly Buckley. It took a second to register. Less than, like the math symbol followed by the number three. The two shapes together formed a heart. Jack loves Molly and Buckley.
“It was an easy way for all of us to remember our passwords when we first set up the accounts. Molly’s was Molly Loves Jack and Buckley, and so on.”
“Sweet,” I said, because it seemed like something I should say.
“The Olivia I knew would be more like…” He made a gagging gesture with his finger and laughed quietly.

The Ex by Alafair Burke

The Ex by Alafair Burke

The Ex is a mystery novel about Olivia, a defense attorney in her mid-40s who receives an unexpected phone call from her over-20-years-ex-fiance’s daughter, asking for her help in his sudden arrest. When Olivia knew Jack, he was kind, forgiving, and selfless – in other words, easy to walk all over, and not only does Olivia feel guilt for the way things ended 20 years ago, but she cannot believe that the good-natured man she knew could be guilty of a triple homicide. However, the longer she works with Jack to set him free, the more evidence she finds, and she must finally decide what to trust: the heaping evidence before her that this man she knew is a killer, or her instincts that tell her otherwise?

To be honest, The Ex is not exactly a life-changing novel, but it also doesn’t try to be one, and the characters are a good extension of this. Each character has his or her own role: Olivia is the hard-working lawyer that has never slowed down enough to have a family, Jack is the family man who was burned by an ex-lover, Buckley is the clever 16-year-old who sees more than the adults in her life expect, and Charlotte is the rich friend who will do anything necessary to set her best friend free. However, all the characters play their roles well, and the author still manages to hide some interesting and appropriate surprises in each character. I definitely found myself rooting for Olivia because while she claims to be anti-family, she shows a sweet loyalty to Jack and his family. Buckley reminds me a good deal of my own daughter (who is too young for this role precisely, but she constantly surprises me with her observations). Jack is just all-around likable – until the one time that he’s not, but that moment humanizes him in a much needed way.

I’m rather conflicted about the realism in The Ex. On one hand, I really appreciated the details in the legal proceedings (included the interesting things like the bail hearing, as well as the not-so-interesting things like the incessant wait and not knowing when the trial will actually be). On the other hand, while the plot was highly engaging, there was a certain amount of improbability to it. The premise of the mystery was that Jack’s only alibi was a woman that he had seen on a jog one morning, dressed in a formal gown, sitting on the ground with a picnic basket, drinking straight out of a bottle of champaigne, reading his favorite novel. He had emailed his friend Charlotte about it, who posted an ad online looking for the woman. She saw the ad and responded, and they had planned on meeting up in the location where the murders then took place. The validity of Jack’s alibi depends on this woman being either real, or an elaborate set-up. The invalidity of Jack’s alibi depends on the woman being a figment of his imagination that he thinks the prosecution, the judge, and the jury will believe. Either way, while it adds interest and drama to the plot, it also takes away from the realism. I did enjoy the novel, and I enjoyed the hunt for the mystery woman, but I did not feel grounded in the story, and I believe this is a large portion of the reason why I felt that way.

In all, I would rate The Ex an 8 out of 10. While it doesn’t jump out at me as particularly revolutionary, there was a lot to keep me invested in the plot, from the intriguing mystery to the realism of the setting and the characters. I would recommend this for anyone that wants an engaging mystery novel.

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