Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Alafair Burke’s best-selling novel The Ex is certainly entertaining. What enhances its entertainment value several times over is its grounding in the law, which not only contributes to its verisimilitude but also makes it a prime example of law in literature. Although the novel is, on one level, escapist genre fiction, a thriller, and a beach read, on an entirely other level it speaks of and to the law. One could even say that the criminal justice system — the network of constitutional protections, rules of ethics, police regulations and protocol, together with the prosecutors and defense lawyers, judges and the media — functions on the level of a character in the novel. Thus, it is unsurprising that the New England Law Review has devoted a symposium issue to The Ex.
My goal in this brief essay is to touch on three things. Part One begins by discussing The Ex as entertainment enhanced by a grounding in the law. Part Two takes up the issue of inequality in criminal justice, as alluded to in The Ex. Part Three takes up a different point entirely, situating The Ex in the context of literary theory, specifically an influential and apropos work of criticism, The Novel and the Police.