Friday, September 14, 2018

Interview ~ THE EXES' REVENGE by Jo Jakeman

The Exes’ Revenge
by: Jo Jakeman
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Release Date: September 11, 2018
Publisher: Berkley Books
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A wickedly dark debut thriller about three women who've all been involved with the same man and realize the one thing they have in common is that they all want revenge against him...

Divorces are often messy, and Imogen's is no exception. Phillip Rochester is controlling, abusive, and determined to make things as difficult as possible. When he shows up without warning demanding that Imogen move out of their house by the end of the month or he'll sue for sole custody of their young son, Imogen is ready to snap.

In a moment of madness, Imogen does something unthinkable--something that puts her in control for the first time in years. She's desperate to protect her son and to claim authority over her own life.

But she wasn't expecting both Phillip's ex-wife and new girlfriend to get tangled up in her plans. These three very different women--and unlikely allies--reluctantly team up to take revenge against a man who has wronged them all.

Originally titled Sticks and Stones

Hi Jo. Welcome to Read Your Writes Book Reviews. How are you?
I’m really well thank you. I’ve just come back from holiday in Cornwall where I tried surfing – I wasn’t very good!

Surfing can definitely be difficult. Tell me about The Exes’ Revenge. It sounds like a mix between 9 to 5 and Misery.
Oh, I love that! Both are great films. The Exes’ Revenge is a story about three women who lock their abusive ex in a cellar. Of course, it’s about a lot more than that. It’s about domestic abuse, female friendships, and how far you’d go to protect the ones you love.

What was your inspiration behind the book?
I had the idea for a funeral where some women in the congregation were happy that this man was dead. I’d been to too many funerals that year and they were often on my mind. I was also reading Jane Eyre at the time and wondering how Jane could love a man like Rochester. I started playing with the idea of turning Jane Eyre on its head, and instead of Rochester locking his first wife in the attic, having the wife locking Rochester in the cellar.

Tell me about the characters of Imogen, Naomi, Ruby, and Philip.
The women are very different characters. Ruby is forgiving, a little naïve at times. Naomi is quick to anger, defensive and scared of being hurt. Imogen is downtrodden, rarely sticks up for herself, but will do anything to protect her son. They bond over the fact that Phillip has mistreated them all, and continues to manipulate them. Phillip is a deeply flawed and cruel man. He is desperate for control and power. When the women stand up to him, and challenge his authority, he puts their lives in danger.

What surprised you about this story?
I’ve been surprised by the reaction to the book. I’ve had messages from women who have been in abusive relationships. They’ve told me about their experience, and how they are stronger for it. I am always humbled when I get positive feedback from a reader.

When a reader reads the last page of this book, what do you want their first thought to be?
Eva Dolan, author, said The Exes’ Revenge was ‘a revenge thriller to make you punch the air with solidarity’. That quote made me so happy because that was exactly the reaction I was hoping for.

Jo, thank you so much for your time.
My pleasure. Thank you for your questions.

Chapter 1

The day of Phillip’s funeral I expected to feel free, unburdened, but when the curtains close around Phillip Rochester’s satin-lined coffin all I feel is indigestion.

Naomi perches in the front row, shifting uncomfortably as the congregation whispers at her back. There are creases under her eyes where cried-out mascara threads its way through the cracked veneer. I wonder what she’s crying for because, after all he’s done, I am certain that it is not for him.

The vicar talked of a man who bore so little resemblance to the Phillip that I knew that I almost shed a tear. It is a time for lies and cover-ups, not truthful observations.

I twist my wedding band with my left thumb. No engagement ring. Too flashy, Immie. You’re not that kind of girl. Five hundred and forty-eight days have passed since Phillip left me. I know I should take the ring off, but no amount of soap can free me from the snare. Years of marital misuse have thickened my hands, my waist, and my heart.

I am sitting five rows back, in the seat closest to the wall, as befits the ex-wife. Though, in reality, am I his widow? We didn’t finalize the divorce. The paperwork is still on the sideboard along with the unpaid bills and the condolence cards. Fancy that. Me. A widow.

Some might say I shouldn’t be here at all. Friends from my old life try not to stare at me, but they can’t help themselves. When our eyes bump into each other, there is a timid acknowledgment, an apology of sorts, before a gosh-look-at-the-time glance at wrists and a scurrying for the chapel door. Nobody called when Phillip traded me in. They went with him into his new life along with the Bruce Springsteen CDs and the coffee machine.

Mother sits by my side alternately tutting and sighing, unsure whether to be angry or sad. She promised not to speak during the service, and though the effort is nearly crippling her, she has kept her word. Her eyes burn holes into my temples. I know that her nostrils will be flaring like they always do when she is displeased. Mother tends to convey more through her eyes than her mouth, and I regret not telling her to keep those shut too.

We disagreed on whether Alistair should attend his father’s funeral. She says that, at six years old, he is too young. I say that he should be here to say good-bye, to keep up the pretense that Phillip will be missed. Mother won. Some battles aren’t worth fighting. We wrote notes attached to helium balloons instead. Up, up, and away. Bye-bye, Daddy. Rot in hell, Phillip.

There are simple flowers at the front of the crematorium and Pachelbel’s Canon is piped in from an invisible source. Everything has been carefully orchestrated to whitewash the darkness of death and to disinfect the walls against the smell of decay. A palate cleanser, if you like, between death and the wake. Naomi has booked the function room at the Old Bell, but I won’t go in case the sherry loosens my lips and I smile a smile that shouldn’t be seen at a funeral.

As the mournful parade passes us by, we file out of our rows with the order of service in hand. Phillip’s photograph on the front is a grotesque, grinning specter. It was taken before he was promoted to CID. A decade ago at least. I used to think he looked so handsome in that uniform.

Mother stands in line to pay her respects to Naomi. It will be a brief conversation as high opinion is in short supply. My best friend, Rachel, is talking to DC Chris Miller with a red shawl fastened about her shoulders. She refused to wear black. As she rightly pointed out, black is a sign of respect. Both she and Chris held Phillip in the same regard. I’d hoped it would be Chris leading the inquest into Phillip’s death, but they’ve brought in someone from further afield. Neutral.

I’m aware of Ruby behind me, though I am careful not to make eye contact with her. She is wearing a diaphanous frock of fresh-bruise purple, the most somber outfit she owns. It’s the first time I’ve seen her wearing shoes. Usually barefoot, sometimes in flimsy flip-flops. It’s anyone’s guess whether this is a nod to conformity or she has simply come equipped to dance on Phillip’s grave. She sits at the back row, as far away from the coffin as she can get, and commensurate with her ex-ex-wife status. The first Mrs. Rochester, the woman that Naomi and I have been measured against, holds an icy-white tissue under her nose, a pomander against the contagion of grief.

I stand and edge my way past the eye-dabbers and the head-shakers until I feel the sun on my face and smell the freshly mown grass. I squint against the sudden glare and a treacherous tear escapes my eye.

A stranger touches his cold hand to my elbow in a shared moment of I-know-how-it-feels, but how could he? 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.

Purchase The Exes’ Revenge from:

Jo is a writer based in Derbyshire. Her debut Psychological Thriller will be published in the UK as Sticks and Stones by Harvill Secker (Penguin Random House) on 12 July 2018, and as The Exes’ Revenge by Berkley in the USA on 11 September.

Places to find Jo Jakeman:


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