I was held spellbound from the first page to the last by this intricate and devious mystery. In a genre where it is difficult to stand out, The Dead Ex conjures up a captivating plot with plenty of suspense and surprises.
Vicki narrates the story as one of 3 women that will do so throughout the book. Vicki’s ex-husband David has gone missing and there is growing evidence that she may have had something to do with it. Vicki is still in love with David, even though he is now married to Tanya, and those feelings get in the way of logic and rational decision making. She was also an ex-prison warden (and guvnor) so she is well trained in self-defence, and quite knowledgeable of prisoners and their capacity for crime. Mix in epilepsy and we have a very strong cocktail of motive, excuse and capability. Vicki is developed as a great character with her flaws and abilities that don’t feel contrived for the sake of the story.
Ten years earlier we hear from Scarlet, as her story is told alternately with Vicki’s. Scarlet is eight and with her manipulative and selfish mother, is unscrupulously played into serving her purposes, to the detriment of her own well-being and protection. Scarlet’s story is really sad as her mother is sentenced to prison and she is sent to foster homes. At times her story is heart-breaking and frustrating but always captivating. It is emotionally charged reading as we discover how damaging a negative and abusive childhood experience can be on the mental outlook and stability of a person. Scarlet, I wanted to keep safe but she carries out some immature and destructive actions that leave you discouraged. Just what a great character should do.
The third woman, Helen’s story, joins the narrative halfway through the book, at a point just before David disappeared. She has an interest in seducing David and uses her looks and guile to manipulate him. Needless to say, David doesn’t consider loyalty and his marriage vow, even of the slightest importance, so it doesn’t take much for him and Helen to get dizzy with it.
These 3 storylines all come together in the final unravelling of the mystery. You may guess the twist early on but you will never be quite sure. Regardless, the story is brought to a climactic end with still a surprise or two to come. One little issue I have, but I believe this to be personal taste, is that I don’t like the last chapter jumping forward multiple years to give the reader a conclusive end – just let it go and allow the reader to create their own conclusions.
Many thanks to Penguin Books (UK) Publishing Limited and NetGalley, for an ARC version of the book in return for an honest review.