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The Ex

The Ex

4.3 35
by Alafair Burke

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In this breakout standalone novel of suspense in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on a Train, a woman agrees to help an old boyfriend who has been framed for murder—but begins to suspect that she is the one being manipulated.

Twenty years ago she ruined his life. Now she has the chance to save it.



In this breakout standalone novel of suspense in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on a Train, a woman agrees to help an old boyfriend who has been framed for murder—but begins to suspect that she is the one being manipulated.

Twenty years ago she ruined his life. Now she has the chance to save it.

Widower Jack Harris has resisted the dating scene ever since the shooting of his wife Molly by a fifteen-year-old boy three years ago. An early morning run along the Hudson River changes that when he spots a woman in last night’s party dress, barefoot, enjoying a champagne picnic alone, reading his favorite novel. Everything about her reminds him of what he used to have with Molly. Eager to help Jack find love again, his best friend posts a message on a popular website after he mentions the encounter. Days later, that same beautiful stranger responds and invites Jack to meet her in person at the waterfront. That’s when Jack’s world falls apart.

 Olivia Randall is one of New York City’s best criminal defense lawyers. When she hears that her former fiancé, Jack Harris, has been arrested for a triple homicide—and that one of the victims was connected to his wife’s murder—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, to absolve herself of guilt from a tragic decision, a secret she has held for twenty years. 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?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Near the start of bestseller Burke’s gripping standalone, New York City DA Olivia Randall receives a desperate phone call from the school-age daughter of her ex-fiancé, Jack Harris, whose wife, Molly, was killed in a mass shooting three years earlier at Manhattan’s Penn Station. Jack has now been implicated in a triple murder—one of the victims was partly responsible for Molly’s death—and his only defense is his flimsy claim that at the time he had an assignation with a mysterious woman he first saw drinking champagne and reading a book on a Hudson River pier. As Olivia sets out to clear his name, she begins to wonder whether Jack is not the devoted, kind, and decent man she remembers. Internally conflicted but outwardly brash, Olivia makes an appealingly bold protagonist, and while the final twist may disappoint some readers, Burke (If I Were You) keeps the suspense high throughout, prying open mysteries of relationships and perception. Agent: Philip Spitzer, Philip Spitzer Literary Agency. (Jan.)
Gillian Flynn
“Burke’s female characters are always very involving, with big, strong voices.”
Kimberly McCreight
“With an all-too-real mass shooting in a richly-observed Manhattan as its springboard, The Ex is an expertly crafted, intricately woven novel that is as emotionally complex as it is riveting.”
Los Angeles Times on All Day and a Night
“The strength of the novel is its complexity: The characters are variegated, textured, operating out of a range of motivations, personal and otherwise.”
Associated Press on If You Were Here
“Captivating…. Burke excels in writing compelling character-driven stories mixed with baffling mysteries.”
Washington Post on Never Tell
“Burke has a good eye for the many faces of New York….Burke’s story is complex, but her pace is fast, her prose is crisp and her duplicitous characters ring true in the Darwinian world she creates.”
Library Journal
★ 01/01/2016
Twenty years ago, Olivia Randall broke up with fiancé Jack Harris, hurting him beyond measure. Now that Randall is a top New York City defense attorney, she has a chance to atone—by saving him when he's accused of murder. Most of the evidence against Jack seems circumstantial: he was, admittedly, in the area where the shootings occurred, with a fanciful alibi that he was to meet a woman he'd seen at a glance, then connected with online. But one of the victims, Malcolm Neely, is the father of a disturbed teenager, Todd Neely, who three years earlier killed 13 people, including Jack's wife. Malcolm had repeatedly refused to get his son the help he needed. Then there was the gunshot residue on Jack's shirt, plus the implied threat he made toward Malcolm. In her third stand-alone thriller (after Long Gone and If You Were Here), Burke details the pain of the Olivia-Jack breakup gradually, as the attorney loses trust slowly in her client. VERDICT Strong characters and a plot that's handled deftly, despite its complexities, show Burke at the top of her game here. This is a compelling legal thriller with a strong emotional component grounded in a solid rational base, with a final twist to boot. [See Prepub Alert, 7/27/15; see also a profile of Burke on p. 97.—Ed.]—Michele Leber, Arlington, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A sassy New York City attorney defends an old love who may—or may not—have killed the man responsible for his wife's death. Enter Olivia Randall, a mouthy liberal lawyer who doesn't take "no" for an answer. When her former fiance's teenage daughter, Buckley, begs Olivia to help get her dad out of the major-sized pickle in which he's landed, Olivia finds herself returning to a time when she was young, in love, and, ultimately, a heartbreaker. At least that's the way successful author Jack Harris remembers her. When Olivia and Jack broke up, he met and married Molly, who died in a mass shooting at Penn Station. Todd Neeley, the boy who killed her along with 12 other people, took his own life after the shooting. Now his father, Malcolm Neeley, has been killed along with two others, and police think Jack shot him out of vengeance. Jack admits he was near the area where his archnemesis was murdered but swears he was there to meet an intriguing woman he had noticed on an earlier trip and who'd come forward after a friend put out a call for her online. Olivia believes she can win this case, but soon police turn up evidence that makes Jack look bad: he'd filed suit against Neeley in connection to his wife's death. Also, testing revealed gunshot residue on his shirt. As the investigation progresses, the prosecution's case only grows more formidable, leading Olivia to question whether Jack could be the murderer after all. Burke has progressed a long way since her debut, which is fortunate for fans of crime thrillers. Her latest features smooth, engaging writing; a sharp, funny edge; and characters worth investing in. Burke has created some memorable female protagonists over the years, but Olivia might be the cream of the crop. If readers are lucky enough, snarky Olivia will snag another convoluted case and make additional appearances up the road.
Harlan Coben
“A major talent.”
Megan Abbott
“Burke’s novels always deliver and constantly surprise. They’re both addictive and utterly rewarding.”
Entertainment Weekly
Associated Press Staff
“Burke tells a compelling legal thriller that will have readers baffled until the final reveal.... Burke knows how to write, and Olivia Randall is one of her most authentic characters. No one would object if this is the start of a new series.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Riveting…. Burke’s protagonist, Olivia Randall, is a complicated woman with legal skills to match the Lincoln Lawyer…. Olivia proves she’s at the top of her game as a criminal defense attorney. And with her pacey plot and fascinating characters, Burke proves she’s at the top of hers.”
New York Journal of Books
“Briskly told and packed with plot, The Ex rocks. . . . A nifty bit of fine suspense.”
“A deeply wrought, emotional story that transcends the crime at its core. This is perhaps her best work to date.”
“This thought-provoking novel is brilliantly crafted, with a compelling and complex plot.”
Florida Sun-Sentinel
“Superb.... Burke delivers a multi-layered plot that explores relationships and manipulation in a rich character study.... Anyone who has a former boyfriend—or girlfriend—will be able to relate to Olivia’s situation.... “The Ex” doesn’t let up until the final, believable twist.”
USA Today
“Enjoyable.... There’s a great and satisfying surprise.... Worth the time.”
Providence Journal
“Superb…. Equal measures superlative mystery and crack courtroom thriller reminiscent of the great John Lescroart or the William Diehl classic “Primal Fear.” We literally never know what’s coming next, putty in Burke’s devilishly adept hands as she shapes a wholly satisfying and brilliantly constructed whiz bang of a tale.”
Chris Pavone
“Intriguing, suspenseful, compelling, insightful, surprising, and thoroughly satisfying — The Ex is a great read.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Alafair Burke is the New York Times bestselling author of ten previous novels, including the standalone thrillers Long Gone and If You Were Here, and the Ellie Hatcher series: All Day and a Night, Never Tell, 212, Angel’s Tip, and Dead Connection. She is also the coauthor of the Under Suspicion series with Mary Higgins Clark. A former prosecutor, she is now a professor of criminal law and lives in Manhattan.

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The Ex 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Alafair Burke! I previously read two stories she co-authored with Mary Higgins Clark. I figured that if one of the masters of suspense chose her as a co-author that it was worth reading at least one of her books. I am so glad that I did because I have a new author to add to my favorite suspense novelists!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in two days--I couldn't put it down! There are a lot of twists and turns. I will definitely look for more books by Alafair Burke.
Anonymous 12 months ago
This was my first book by this author and oh my goodness! I am hooked I totally thought I had it figured out more than once to have that be wrong and the ending was super surprised but in a good way, I have worked in the legal field my entire life, I know nothing else and wow is all I can say!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept me going until the end. There are parts that you think you know what is going on, but your just not too sure...until the end! Looking to see what else this author has available to read!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the story. Although I did figure out "who done it" in the 1st quarter of the book. Perhaps a bit too obvious. JDL
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First i have read from this auther. Well worth the time!!
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
The Ex is the eleventh novel by former police prosecutor and American author, Alafair Burke. When hung-over lawyer, Olivia Randall wakes to a request from a teenager concerned about her missing father, she’s ready to dismiss this as “not my problem”. But the teen is Buckley Harris, sixteen year old daughter of her one-time fiancé, Jackson Harris. And Olivia owes Harris, big-time, for something that happened twenty years earlier. Olivia tracks Jack down at First Precinct, and quickly assesses the situation: things are much worse that her good-guy ex believes. His proximity to the early morning shooting, coupled with his strange excuse for being there, the identity of one of the victims and certain evidence found in his apartment, lead to his being charged with a triple count of murder. And despite their history, he wants Olivia to defend him. Against her better judgement, and that of her law partner, she agrees. As the investigation proceeds and her team uncovers evidence to bolster Jack’s defence, Olivia wavers between her initial conviction that Jack could not have done this and doubting his innocence. Does Olivia’s guilt about the past colour her judgement as she deals with the evidence that is uncovered? Is Jack’s story so bizarre that it has to be true, or is this a meticulously planned revenge killing? Burke has crafted a clever tale that has an original plot littered with twists, clues and red herrings. The pace is fast, the characters are credible and all the more appealing for their flaws. While the most astute reader may deduce the identity of the killer amongst an abundance of characters with motive, means and opportunity, the need to know the “how and why” will keep the pages turning; most readers will be kept guessing until the shocking conclusion. A brilliant read!
Christina_I 13 hours ago
The book kept me engaged. However, I found it predictable. I knew who committed the crime less than halfway through the book. There wasn't a moment where I second guess my prediction. It's a good quick read if you don't want to read something too intense.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Kept you thinking and wanting to read more
Anonymous 10 months ago
pug_mom 11 months ago
I never write reviews but this book was just so good I had to put my 2cents in. I'm already searching for more by this author. I'm a fan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read but took a while to make sense of how it all turned out in the end
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LeeNCLD More than 1 year ago
Great Read! First I have read by Alafair Burke; will not be my last. Could not put it down! Well done!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend this book! You will not be disappointed! Keeps you on your toes right from the beginning.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pretty good. Glad I got it on sale. Great mindless beach read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable but doesn't hold together in several areas. Even though I was able to figure out who done it, it didn't make sense really. The motives and methods didnt make sense.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it! Couldn't put it down
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings My fourth Alafair Burke book and I am officially a fan! Olivia hurt a man a long time ago and a relationship went bust in a bad way, she feels guilt and he re enters her life in an interesting way and she has the chance to right the wrongs that she thinks she inflicted on him. Jack the man in question, needs her help to get him out of a real bad situation - arrested on suspicion of murder and he is hoping that her trust in him is still strong and she can get him out of the mess. This book lies in where the truth is. Any lawyer must trust their client to give them the whole truth to help in their case, but in this book Olivia has to not only confront the present but the past and make sure through it all she is seeing the truth. I loved that seeing the book through Olivia's eyes I never was satisfied and fully feeling the truth. Not until the very end did I not know where the truth really is, thank goodness the author reveals it all in the end!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
HORRIBLE! I didn't even finish it was so predictable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Entriging story
brf1948 More than 1 year ago
As usual, a quick read, a good story well told. Alafair Burke only gets better with time. I find it hard to remember this is number ten from her - one of us is getting old....
Laura_at_125Pages More than 1 year ago
Original review @ 125Pages.com The Ex had such potential. A mass shooting and a young wife and mother dead. Then a few years later the father of the shooter is murdered and the prime suspect is the husband of the wife killed. Open and shut case right? Well no, he has an unbelievable alibi and a shark for a lawyer. The same shark he was once engaged to, who will do everything in her power to prove his innocence. Sounds fantastic right? And it was until I figured out if he did it about 40% though the book. From then on I kept picking out the clues and it lost its fun. The Ex is another mystery hiding as a thriller. I love thrillers that keep me on the edge of my seat, tense with anticipation. Mysteries really don’t do it for me as I spend the whole time seeking those little tidbits to prove my theory. So, I was right in the end but lost the tension I had hoped for. Alafair Burke can write. I really enjoyed her turn of phrase and her ability to set a vivid scene without over describing. The world building was fine, I wasn’t immersed but I wasn’t confused. The plot was also fine, I had hoped for tense and gripping and it wasn’t. The characters were mostly great. Olivia and Jack played off of each other well. The sidekick best friend and daughter were at turns abrasive or needy and I didn’t click with them. The Ex is a great mystery novel, I just don’t care for mysteries. As a thriller, I found it lacking. But I heartily recommended it to my mom who loves a good mystery and she has already requested it from the library. So mystery lovers this is a great pick for you. For those like me, who want a gripping thriller, I would pass. I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
feather_lashes More than 1 year ago
The Ex is a standalone legal/mystery novel written by former prosecutor and current professor of criminal law and procedure: Alafair Burke. I didn't realize beforehand, but this novel apparently falls into that small genre I don't care for: legal thrillers/detective mysteries. I usually just save myself the time and annoyance by DNF'ing and moving on. But with The Ex, I continued because I actually enjoyed following the legal component (especially in light of the author's profession!!) and I found the pieces of social technology quite interesting. More than that though, the characters were fairly complex and I enjoyed seeing how their thought processes and emotions influenced their overall behavior. As for the mystery component, I knew who the guilty party was at the 30% mark which is pretty sad given how embarrassingly blindsided I usually am in this genre...but hey, maybe I'm getting better at these whodunits! Regardless, I think many fans of legal mysteries would enjoy The Ex, so if that includes you then check it out! My favorite quote: "We now lived in a country where only three shot was good news."