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THE EXES’ REVENGE by Jo Jakeman: Book Review

Which would you prefer if you had a choice?  Justice?  Understanding?  Revenge?  Each of the three women in Phillip Rochester’s life has a point of view on how to deal with the man who impacted their lives in unimaginable ways.

The Exes’ Revenge opens with Phillip’s funeral.  His widow is Imogen; she is the book’s narrator and the mother of their only child, Alistair.

Also at the funeral are the two other women Phillip controlled–his first wife, Ruby, and his fianceé, Naomi.  Yes, although he was still technically married to Imogen, Phillip was living with the very young Naomi at the time of his death.

Phillip was a policeman with all the power of his force behind him.  Although Imogen had reported domestic abuse a few times early in their marriage, no notice was taken by the investigating officers.  After all, Phillip was one of them.

But now that Imogen has finally decided on a divorce, her almost-ex has upped the ante.  Instead of Imogen divorcing him, he’s decided to divorce her.  She tells him that’s not a problem, she’ll be happy to let him say she’s at fault, but them he delivers the coup de grâce.

If Imogen and Alistair aren’t out of the house by the end of the month, he won’t divorce her; even more frightening, he will ask for sole custody of their son, citing Imogen’s depression as the reason she is not competent to mother the child.  And when she asks where on earth they would go, he informs her it’s not his problem.

As Imogen says at the end of Chapter 1, “There are only three of us here–Naomi, Ruby, and I–who know how satisfying it feels to know that Phillip Rochester got the death he deserved.”

The novel is narrated in Imogen’s voice, and she tries to explain to herself and the reader why she stayed with Phillip long after his violent outbursts became the norm.  Several years before the novel opens, Imogen, pregnant, was hit by a car and miscarried.  Although Phillip appeared sensitive at first, he soon became annoyed by his wife’s subsequent depression, and his violence and his extramarital affairs escalated.  Even the birth of their son did nothing to stop this behavior.  But by this time Phillip has convinced his wife that the fault is hers, that she has driven him to this behavior by her actions, and she is now convinced that she deserves nothing better.

Then, when Imogen meets Naomi at the hospital one night and sees that the young woman too is a victim of Phillip’s violence, Imogen realizes that her husband must be stopped, and her divorce is not what will stop Phillip’s abusive behavior.  She has the beginning of a plan that becomes the women’s revenge, and Naomi and eventually even Ruby, Phillip’s saintly first wife, join her.

The Exes’ Revenge is a spellbinding mystery, with characters who are understandable and realistic.   Even if you would have made different choices under the same circumstances, the author’s skill makes you understand how Imogen’s self-doubt and low self-esteem allowed her husband’s abuse to continue.

Imogen is a terrific protagonist, and you will be rooting for her to get her life together and protect her son in the only way she deems possible.

You can read more about Jo Jakeman at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.