The Dead Ex: A Novel

The Dead Ex: A Novel

by Jane Corry


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From the bestselling author of My Husband's Wife, one man's disappearance throws four women's lives into chaos—who will survive?

Vicki works as an aromatherapist, healing her clients out of her home studio with her special blends of essential oils. She's just finishing a session when the police arrive on her doorstep—her ex-husband David has gone missing. Vicki insists she last saw him years ago when they divorced, but the police clearly don't believe her. And her memory's hardly reliable—what if she did have something to do with it?

Meanwhile, Scarlet and her mother Zelda are down on their luck, and at eight years old, Scarlet's not old enough to know that the "game" her mother forces her to play is really just a twisted name for dealing drugs. Soon, Zelda is caught, and Scarlet is forced into years of foster care—an experience that will shape the rest of her life . . .

David's new wife, Tanya, is the one who reported him missing, but what really happened on the night of David's disappearance? And how can Vicki prove her innocence, when she's not even sure of it herself? The answer lies in the connection among these four women—and the one person they can't escape.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525561194
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/05/2019
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 110,621
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Jane Corry is an author and journalist, and has spent time as the writer-in-residence of a high-security prison for men—an experience that helped inspire My Husband's Wife, her bestselling debut thriller, as well as her second thriller, Blood Sisters. The Dead Ex is her third thriller.

Read an Excerpt



Daily Telegraph, 5 November 2018
A body has been found, washed up on the shore at the out-let of Deadman’s Creek on the North Cornwall coast. A police spokesman said that no further details are available at this time.

Sage, savin, rue, red thyme. People assume that aromatherapy oils are safe. But these little beauties can be highly toxic if used in the wrong way.
Or so some say.
Often, it’s hard to know the truth.
Take this woman I once knew, who killed the man she loved.
She didn’t mean to.Well, that’s what she told the rest of  us . . .
He’d been cheating, but he’d promised to give this other woman up.
Then she caught him on the phone.
So she reached for the object closest to  hand—  a screwdriver, as it happened—
which she plunged into his neck.
Of course she meant to kill him, I thought at the time.
But now I’m not so sure.


14 February 2018

I unscrew the lid, inhale the deep, heady smell-straight to the nostrils-and carefully measure out three drops into the glass measuring jug. Pure lavender. My favorite. More importantly, perhaps, this clever little remedy is renowned for its healthy level of esters, otherwise known, in my business, as "healing properties."

Healing? Who am I kidding? Nothing and no one can save me. I might look like a fairly average woman in her forties, but deep down, I'm a walking time bomb.

It could happen any second. You might wait for weeks, maybe months: all quiet. And then, hey, presto, along it comes when your guard is down. "Don't think about it," they advised me. Easier said than done. Sometimes I liken it to an actress coming off stage to be consoled on her performance even though she can't remember a single damn thing.

Standing on my tiptoes, I reach up to the shelf for a second bottle and add ylang-ylang, or "poor man's jasmine." Second-best can be just as good. Or so I tell myself.

Now for petitgrain. I take down the third vial carefully, remembering the lesson in which I learned that the contents are made from the leaves of the bitter orange tree. Blend with grapefruit? Possibly. It depends on the client.

When you've got what I have, you have to find ways to minimize damage. But at the end of the day, if something goes wrong, the ultimate price is death. The oils need to be treated with respect in order to reduce the dangers.

I love aromatherapy. Its magic is both distracting and calming.

But tonight isn't about me. It's about my new client. Though she's not a fellow sufferer, her face bears similarities to mine, with those soft creases around her eyes, suggesting laughter and tears, and the slightly saggy, soft-looking pouches underneath them, which she has tried to hide with a light-reflective concealer.

Silently, I admire her peach lipstick. I no longer bother with it myself. I used to always wear "Beautiful Beige" to make a point about being feminine. The woman before me has blond hair, tied back loosely with the odd wisp escaping. What I'd give for a color like that! The "freckly redhead" tag from school days still stings, but David had loved it. "My very own beautiful Titian," he used to say.

Both my client and I wear brave smiles that say, "I'm fine, really." But she's not, or she wouldn't be here. And nor would I.

"I just need something to help me relax," she says. "I've had a lot of stress."

It's not my job to be a therapist. Even so, there are times when I want to interrupt and tell my own story to show these women (I've never had a male client) that they aren't alone. Of course, that wouldn't be wise, because it might scare them off. And I need them. Not just for my business. But to prove myself.

Time to go over my client's medical history. "Are you pregnant?"

I have to ask this question even though her disclaimer form states that-like me-she is forty-six. It's still possible. She gives a short laugh. "I've already answered all that. Why do you ask, anyway?"

"There are some aromatherapy oils that aren't suitable for expectant mothers," I say. I move on swiftly. "Do you have high blood pressure?

"No. Though I feel I should have. Can this stuff affect that, too?"

She glances with suspicion at the bottles lined up above us with all the colors of the rainbow trapped inside. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. For a minute, I'm aged nine, in the small northern mining town where I grew up, reciting them to the teacher. Some patterns you don't forget.

"No, but it's good for me to know. The oils are like medicine." I hear my tutor's words tripping out of my mouth. "Very good for you when used appropriately."

We run through more details. She's declared on the form that she has no medical issues. Yet, for some reason, I feel apprehensive.

"Would you like to change?" I suggest. "I'll leave the room for a few minutes to give you privacy."

She's clearly nervous. Then again, so are many of my clients who've never had this kind of treatment before. As I go, I see her glancing at my certificate on the wall for reassurance.

Vicki Goudman. MIFA. ITEC LEVEL 3.

Member of the International Federation of Aromatherapists. Sometimes I don't believe it myself. It's certainly not what I'd planned.

When I return to the room, my client is lying facedown on the treatment couch as instructed. Her bare shoulders, which reveal a dark mole on the right blade, are thin, scrawny. Her skin is cold even though I've got the heating on high at this time of year.

"I haven't felt like eating much recently," she says. "I've lost weight."

Trauma does that to you. Or it can make you pile on the pounds. I've done both. I turn on the CD player. The angel music is soft, healing.

"Mmmm," she says in a sleepy voice as I massage the oil in deft circular motions down her spine. "You've got a real touch. I love that smell. What is it again?"

I repeat the ingredients. Lavender. Ylang-ylang. Petitgrain. Grapefruit juice.

"How do you know what to use?" she asks, her voice muffled because of her position.

"It's a bit like a marriage," I say. "You match the oil to the client's needs. And you follow your instinct."

There's a snort. I think, for a minute, that it's laughter, but then I realize she's crying. "If I'd listened to my own instinct," she sobs, "I might have kept my husband."

There it is again. That temptation to give away too much about yourself. You think you're doing it to put them at their ease. But really, it's giving in to your own need. Afterward, you regret it. The client feels awkward on the next visit. And so do you. It's a business arrangement, not a friendship.

So I hold back the longing to tell this woman that David and I would have been coming up to our sixth wedding anniversary in a few months. I also resist the temptation to remind myself that it is Valentine's Day. That on our first-and only-one together he had given me a pair of crystal drop earrings, which I can no longer bring myself to wear. Instead, I breathe in the lavender and imagine it's wrapped around my body like a protective cloak.

"Sometimes," I say, kneading the stress knots, "you have to go through the dark to get to the light."

My client relaxes more, and I'd like to think that it's my words that have soothed her. But it's the magic of the aromatherapy. The lavender is getting into my own skin, too. That's the thing about oils: they're always the same. A constant.

Unlike love.

"Is there anything in particular stressing you out?" I ask gently.

She gives a Where do I start? laugh. "The kids are driving me crazy, especially the little one. He's impossible."

"How old is he?" I ask.

"Nearly four. Going on ten."

Now it's my skin that goes cold.

"He's in trouble at school for biting this new boy in his class, and the teachers think it's my fault. They've actually asked me if there is violence in our family."

Is there? The question lies unspoken.

She wriggles slightly on the couch. "Do you have kids?"

My hands dig deeper into her muscle knots. "I have a son. He's four, too."

"What's his name?"


"Is he a good boy?"

I think of the picture in my pocket.

"He's perfect."

"You're lucky. Who looks after him when you're working?"

I pause briefly. "He's with my dad."

"Really? You hear a lot about grandparents helping out nowadays."

My thumbs are really pressing down now.

"Actually, that's hurting."

"Sorry." I release the pressure.

After that, we continue in silence with only the angel music in the background. Some like to talk throughout. Others don't say a word. Many begin to confide and then stop, like this one. She might tell me more at the next session. I sense she'll come back. But I hope she won't. She's too nosy.

"Thank you," she says when I leave her to get dressed. I return to my notes. I write down, in purple ink, the exact treatment and areas of the body that still need attention. Those knots were stubborn. They are often related to the knots in the mind. After David, my shoulders were stiff for months.

"Would you rather have cash or a check?" she asks.

"Check, please."

Paper payment-or an electronic transfer-allows me to be absolutely certain who has paid me and when. My business must be aboveboard. If nothing else, I've learned that.

She puts on her coat. It's cold outside. The wind is rattling the windows.

"I like your place," she says, looking around as if seeing it properly now that she is about to go.

"Thank you."

I like it, too. One joy of being on your own is that you can decorate exactly as you wish. David had liked modern. I chose a converted ground-floor flat in a Victorian house. My consulting chair is draped with a restful duck egg blue woolen throw. The lighting is soft. Unlit lavender-scented candles line the low table that I painted myself in a creamy white. The pale purple rug, which I take with me every time I move, disguises the stain on the carpet beneath. No stairs. The front door leads straight onto the street opposite the seafront.

"Wish I could work from home," says my client. "I had to give up my job in the bank after my second child."

There are pros and cons, I could say. You don't get out enough if you are busy. You don't have office colleagues to talk to. To joke with. To share problems with. A sudden wave of loneliness engulfs me.

"May I make another appointment now?" she says suddenly.

"Sure," I say, vowing to keep quiet about my personal life the next time. No more talk about Patrick.

And that's when the door sounds. I specifically chose a place with its own front entrance. I also, with the landlady's permission, disconnected the bell. Sharp noises disturb me. A knocker is less strident. But this thud makes me jump.

Why is someone here now, at nine o'clock in the evening? Have I forgotten about another client? Usually I am very careful to write things down, but there have been one or two mistakes recently.

"Would you mind waiting a minute in the studio?" I ask.

It takes a while to open up. I have a thick safety chain, and I've double-locked it, as always. There's another knock as I search for the key. There it is, on the side table. Once more, I must have forgotten to put it in its place on the hook. Not a good sign.

"Coming," I call out as the knocker thuds again.

The open door brings in the biting wind with a trace of fog.

I do a double take. A woman is standing on the doorstep brandishing an ID card as proof of identity. Her face carries all the hallmarks of stress. Immediately, my mind springs into action as I mentally concoct a mixture to soothe her. Lavender. Maybe lemongrass, too.

The man next to her is sporting a fawn raincoat. He looks suspicious. I learned to read body language the hard way. Not that it did any good in the end.

"May I help you?"

"Vicki Goudman?"

I nod, taking in this man and his strikingly assured air.

"Former wife of David Goudman?" he continues.

I nod again. Less certainly this time.

Now he, too, is flashing ID at me. "Detective Inspector Gareth Vine. This is my colleague Sergeant Sarah Brown. May we come in?"

"Sure." I step back to let them inside. My throat has swollen with apprehension. I run my hands through my hair, which I've started to grow again as part of the "new me." Sweat trickles down my back. My mouth is dry.

"What's this about?" I ask.

"When did you last see your ex-husband?"

The question is so unexpected that I cannot think. I feel a sick knot in the pit of my stomach.

"Years ago. Why?" The sour taste of bile is in my mouth as I speak.

The woman in uniform is staring at me. Her eyes are sharp, appraising. "The present Mrs. Goudman has reported him missing."

Sometimes I wonder how it's possible for another woman to carry my name, let alone Tanya, his former secretary, or "the bitch" as I sometimes call her in my head.

"How long . . .? When . . .? Is he all right?"

Even as I ask the last question, I'm aware it's a ridiculous one. If he was OK, they wouldn't be here.

It's the inspector who answers. "That's what we're trying to ascertain." He rubs his chin. "David Goudman has been missing now for fiftn days. His wife is insistent that it is out of character, so we are exploring various lines of inquiry."

My body begins to twitch. Stress is a significant trigger. So, too, is lack of sleep, and even certain music pitches. It was one of the first things they told me. And if it does go wrong, well, I can't be held responsible for either myself or anyone else.

"You said just now you hadn't seen him for years," continues the detective. "Can you be more precise than that?"

"Since 2013." I swallow. "It's when we got divorced."

"I see."

He says this as though he doesn't. Or perhaps he does-all too clearly.

"Where exactly were you on 31 January this year?"

That's easy. I rarely leave this place. "Here. At home. Or maybe on the seafront. I usually walk along it once a day for some air."

"Can anyone confirm that?"

I stare hard at him. "No. I live alone."

"Any friends who might have seen you out and about?"

"Not been here long enough."

"Don't you want to check your diary?"

"There's no need."

There's a brief silence during which I force myself not to speak anymore, conscious that I haven't sounded very convincing.

"Mind if we take a look round?" asks the woman.

I'd like to ask if they have a warrant but I don't want to arouse suspicion.

"You can, although I do have a client here," I say.

"Ah yes. I believe you are a masseuse?"

Her tone suggests that I offer a different kind of service. It wouldn't be the first time that my occupation has been misinterpreted.

"Aromatherapist, actually."

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The Dead Ex 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Twink 19 days ago
The Dead Ex is from author Jane Corry. Vicki is the main protagonist. She is an unreliable narrator, suffering from a faulty memory amongst other things. And she lies. When the police arrive at her door to question her about her dead husband's disappearance she is stunned. Surely they can't believe that she had anything to do with him or his disappearance. Or could she? What about his current wife Tanya? Scarlet and Zelda's stories are also told concurrently to Vicki's. Zena is a dealer and a con who uses her eight year old in her 'business.' While I quite enjoy multiple storylines, I felt like this one went back and forth too long. Corry has indeed crafted connections between the two narratives. But I felt she tried to keep the reader guessing too long with much foreshadowing and many, many teasers. When the 'big' reveal came, I found myself underwhelmed. And without providing any spoilers, I had a hard time believing what had been alluded to. Vicki presents as far too scatterbrained and unprofessional to have been employed as she was. And given that background, the way she allows the police to treat her is completely ridiculous. On the flip side, her current health concerns do contribute to memory loss. I felt like I should be on team Vicki - but I couldn't get on board. I just didn't like her or empathize with her. Part Two gives us another female character to consider. And more actions that I had a hard time buying. I persevered and made it the end, but had pretty much lost interest by this point. I've enjoyed Corry's previous books, but this one fell flat for me.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Vicki Goudman works as an aromatherapist and is divorced from David. One evening, the police arrive to say that her ex-husband’s wife, Tanya, has reported David missing. The police want to know if Vicki knows what happened to him. Even though they are divorced, she still loves David but says she doesn’t know where he is. Vicki has epilepsy, and even though she takes medication, she must be very careful should she have an episode. Zelda and her daughter, Scarlet, age 8, live alone. Scarlet is a bright girl and loves her mother dearly. Zelda plays games with Scarlet that she doesn’t always understand, but she follows the rules. It turns out that the games are Zelda’s way of dealing drugs. When Zelda is caught, she is put in jail and Scarlet goes to foster homes. The first one is dreadful but the next one is much better. When Scarlet is allowed to visit her mother, the woman upsets her saying she must get her out of jail. Helen is a young woman who has targeted David to get into his life. She is a talented photographer and she has a plan. Now, Tanya has been murdered and the police have targeted Vicki. Could she have done it? This is a gritty novel which details the sleazy side of drug dealing, foster homes, and prison. In addition, Vicki’s illness is well explained which should be educational to readers. The court and prison processes are also interestingly explained.