Title: Sticks and Stones
Author: Jo Jakeman
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Date of Publication: 12th July 2018 (hardback)
Date of Review: 25th June 2018
Imogen’s husband is a bad man. His ex-wife and his new mistress might have different perspectives but Imogen thinks she knows the truth. And now he’s given her an ultimatum: get out of the family home in the next fortnight or I’ll fight you for custody of our son.
In a moment of madness, Imogen does something unthinkable: she locks her husband in the cellar. Now she’s in control. But how far will she go to protect her son and punish her husband? And what will happen when his ex and his girlfriend get tangled up in her plans?
Dealing with the serious issue of domestic abuse, this well-written and well-structured debut psychological thriller is both heart-breaking and at times funny. The story begins with a flash-forward of Imogen’s not quite ex-husband’s funeral, so right from the start you know how this sorry excuse of a man ends up. Also present at the funeral are Ruby (Phillip’s first wife), and Naomi (his girlfriend) who are also main characters. The author does a brilliant job of portraying Phillip as abusive and controlling, which makes you want to read on and find out how he meets his maker all the more.
The narrative then flashes back in time to the days (and for certain scenes, years) to reveal Phillips treatment of the three women, and how they exact their revenge. When Imogen acts on impulse and locks him in the cellar you can’t help but cheer her on. Imogen has been characterised as having quite a dry wit. When Phillip is in the cellar she asks if he would like a drink. He asks for tea, so she makes him coffee. And then she makes him marmite on toast: ‘Is that Marmite?’ he asked…. ‘Yep’…’I hate Marmite.’…’Do you? I must’ve forgotten.’ Phillip has controlled Imogen for years, now the tables are turned.
The story is also about women who were once rivals, standing together. However, true to its genre, the plot is full of red herrings and half-truths and you’re never quite sure if the women are as honest as they make out.
At first, I assumed Phillip would be killed off in the cellar but Imogen isn’t the only one he’s lied to and before long something else crops up that might be what kills him. I don’t want to spoil things by saying by how he finally dies, but let’s just say he gets his just deserts, and the author has done a great job with this final twist.
Under Literature Love’s rating scheme, this book has been awarded 4 out of 5 stars.
Four stars means I really enjoyed this book. This book is highly recommended. A well-structured narrative with three-dimensional characters (not necessarily likeable). Plot is intriguing with twisty hooks.
Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for an Advance Review Copy of this book.