The Quick Recap and Section-by-Section Summary for Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney are below. Spoiler warning: these summaries contains spoilers.
For a non-spoiler version of the plot synopsis, see The Bibliofile's review of Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney.
The two-paragraph version: Amelia and Adam are on a getaway, staying at an old chapel. There's also a woman named Robin living in a cottage nearby. Adam is a screenwriter who is known for adapting the novels of a writer named Henry Winter. He has reoccuring nightmares about his mother being killed in a hit-and-run accident when he was 13. At the chapel, Amelia and Adam find there are strange occurrences (thanks mostly to Robin) and power outages. Meanwhile, interspersed throughout the book are letters addressed to Adam (but never sent) each year on their anniversary detailing their relationship history. The letters culminate in describing how Adam cheated on her with her best friend from work. Later, in a big plot twist, we learn that Robin is actually Adam's first wife (all the letters are written by her, not Amelia). Amelia was the friend that Adam cheated with. He and Amelia married right after the divorce.
In another plot twist, it turns out the chapel belongs to Henry Winter, who is Robin's father. He and Robin had a bad relationship since he was a bully, but she asked him to let Adam adapt his novels. The letters further reveal that Robin has since learned that Amelia was the one in the car that killed Adam's mother. In present day, Robin reveals this information to Adam. It results in a scuffle where Amelia is (presumably) killed. Robin and Adam end up getting back together. (Adam's narration reveals that Amelia had been his girlfriend as a teenager, which is probably why she sought him out later. Adam was the one driving the car that killed his mother. Amelia had merely been in the car with him). The book ends by casting doubt on whether Robin's description of her relationship with her father was accurate (or whether it was the product of an overactive imagination) and it leaves open the possibility that some of the strange occurrences in the house were ghostly in nature.
Amelia and Adam Wright are a couple going through a rough patch in their marriage. Along with their dog Bob, they are on their way to Scotland for a getaway that Amelia won in a raffle at work. Their marriage counselor suggested they use the trip to try to save their marriage. Adam has a disorder called prosopagnosia where he's unable to recognize distinguishing features of people, so he can't recognize faces (including Amelia's).
Adam is a Hollywood screenwriter, known for adapting the works of Henry Winter, his favorite author. The one screenplay he's written that he's always wanted to see become a movie is his first one, entitled Rock Paper Scissors. It's a twisted love story about a man who writes letters to his wife each year on their anniversary.
Interspersed throughout the book are letters written to Adam (but were never set) each year on their anniversary, inspired by Adam's screenplay. The first letters describe how Adam gifted her with Bob when he initially proposed over 10 years ago. Then, on their first anniversary, she had suggested that Adam reach out to Henry Winter about adapting one of Winter's works after his agent had passed away (before the answer had always been no). It resulted in Adam's first Henry Winter adaptation. In the letter, she writes about how Adam doesn't know the role she played in getting Henry Winter to agree to it. By their second anniversary, things are going better for them financially due to the Henry Winter adaption, but it comes at a cost to their relationship because Adam is working so much more.
In present day, they arrive at the place they're staying at, an isolated old church called Blackwater Chapel. The place is dusty and creepy, and there are power outages frequently due to the snowstorms in the area. Amelia thinks she hears someone whispering her name when she's in the crypt. Their night is interrupted when Amelia screams after seeing someone's face in the window. Unbeknownst to them, person peeking in was Robin, a woman who lives in a shabby cottage nearby. Later that night, when Adam and Amelia are up at the bell tower, Adam is almost knocked off when a cloud of bats comes flying out of the bell. Amelia pauses for the moment, apparently paralyzed in fear, but then she saves him. However, Adam tells himself that Amelia considered letting him die for a moment.
That night, Adam has a nightmare that he's had similar versions of many times before. In this version, Amelia is driving when she hits a woman in a red kimono. The nightmare is based on his memory of his mother who was killed in a hit-and-run accident. She had been wearing a red kimono at the time.
Then, as Amelia sleeps, Adam goes downstairs. He has turns off the generator on purpose, but lets Amelia believe that it's a power outage. He thinks about how jealous and suspicious Amelia is all the time and feels frustrated. He knows that he has cheated before, but so has Amelia.
In flashbacks told through the letters, the letters talk about how by their third anniversary, Adam's work has increasingly strained their marriage, with Adam penning more Henry Winter adaptations. Adam also jumps at any opportunity to spend time with Henry, even when it means cancelling on plans. They're also having trouble conceiving. When there starts to be interest in finally turning Rock Paper Scissors into a movie, that becomes Adam's first priority. There's a brief issue with jealousy over Adam spending time with the beautiful lead actress, October O'Brien, but that is resolved. Eventually, however, the project gets shelved after October commits suicide.
In present day, with the power out and the trip going poorly in general, they decide to leave the next morning. Unknown to them, Robin has been sneaking around the chapel. She has overheard them saying they were planning on leaving, but knows she won't let that happen. The next morning, Amelia and Adam get ready to go only to find that Bob is missing and their tires have been slashed. As they look for Bob, they find Robin's cabin. They try knocking but she doesn't answer. Adam gets a glimpse of her inside, but she quickly shuts all the curtains.
Back at the chapel, Adam and Amelia find a brochure talking about how Blackwater Chapel used to be used as a prison for people being accused of witchcraft and how there are still rumors about ghosts. Then, they find a secret room, which Adam recognizes. He realizes that he saw a picture of Henry Winter there once -- this room is his study and this property belongs to Henry. Adam has been out of touch with Henry lately. Adam told him he was going to work on his own stuff instead of adapting more of Henry's books and never heard from him again. Then, outside they find Henry's gravestone. It shows that he's been dead since 2018 -- two years ago.
Switching to Robin's point-of-view, she narrates that Henry is her father and reached out to her before he died. Robin says that Henry made up everything about the ghosts and whatnot at Blackwater to keep people away. They had a bad relationship, but he had asked her to sort out his will before he passed away. Henry had been a bully, and Robin believes he killed her mother (who drowned in a bathtub). He even wrote a book where a man kills his wife in a bathtub. Later, Robin wrote a story in school about a writer who commits crimes and then writes about them, and Henry retaliated by cutting off her hair. As a result, Robin has refused to touch any of the money he left her -- except for using some money to prepare of Adam and Amelia's arrival.
In the letters, we learn that on what would have been their 10th anniversary, Adam was caught cheating with her best friend from work.
In present day, Adam and Amelia notice some photos have been added on the walls. Amelia realizes that there's a photo of Adam on his wedding day with Henry in the background. It's him with his first wife, Robin. (This is the first big plot twist -- the letters were written by Robin, not Amelia. Robin and Adam were married for nearly ten years. He cheated on her with her best friend from work, Amelia. After the divorce, he married Amelia.)
Today is what would have been their 11th anniversary. Robin writes another letter to Adam, explaining how her father had hired a private investigator, Samuel Smith, to keep tabs on her and Adam. Through his research, she learned that Amelia is actually the person who was in the car that killed Adam's mother.
In present day, Robin locks them inside and slips an envelope with the letters she's written under the door. Adam reads the letters and confronts Amelia with this information. Amelia seems frantic and comes at him with a knife, but Robin attacks her with a pair of scissors. Adam and Robin end up getting back together. Adam then narrates the truth about what really happened regarding his mother's death. Amelia had been an old girlfriend of his and they'd been in the car together. She distracted him as he was driving, and he was the one who hit and killed his mother. Amelia then drove off.
Later, Sam Smith (the private investigator) hasn't heard from Henry in some time and goes looking for him at Blackwater. According to Henry, Robin had been a troubled child who had an overactive imagination. When he disciplined her for it once, she cut off her own hair. Sam finds Henry's grave, and he thinks he hears someone whispering his name. When he finds a sapphire ring (a ring Adam gave to Robin and then later Amelia) with a ring finger (presumably Amelia's from when Robin attacked her) still attached, Sam runs away from Blackwater.
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(The section headings aren’t in the book, I added them to make this summary easier to navigate.)
On the Way to Blackwater Chapel
In February 2020, Amelia is in the car with her husband Adam Wright, on their way to a weekend getaway in Scotland. Their marriage counselor Pamela had suggested the trip, so they could try to revive their struggling marriage. Their large black Labrador, Bob, is with them, too.
Adam is a screenwriter. When he was 21, he sold the rights to his first screenplay, Rock Paper Scissors. He’s known for adapting little-known books into blockbusters. Rock Paper Scissors is the only screenplay of Adam’s that has never become a film. It’s a “dark and twisted love story about a man who writes a letter to his wife every year on their anniversary, even after she dies”.
(The book is interspersed with letters that written to Adam on their anniversary, but never given to him, inspired by his Rock Paper Scissors screenplay.)
Adam has a neurological disorder called prosopagnosia where he’s unable to recognize distinguishing features, even for familiar faces. This means he cannot recognize Amelia’s or other people’s faces. He doesn’t like to tell people about his condition.
Neither of them have any family. Adam’s father left when he was young, and his mother passed away when he was in school. Amelia was an orphan. Her parents died in an accident on their way to the hospital when her mother was in labor.
In a letter written in 2007, she writes about Bob. She works at a dog shelter, Battersea Dogs Home. She had wanted to adopt one of the puppies that was found in a discarded shoe box, but Adam had said no. Instead, Adam adopted the dog for them and used the opportunity to propose, giving her his mother’s sapphire engagement ring.
In present day, Amelia nearly hits a stag, and they get into an argument. Adam says he was too busy and this trip to Scotland was a mistake. Adam is also grumpy because he doesn’t have his phone with him. (Amelia purposely hid this morning to teach him a lesson, though she doesn’t know he saw her do it). They eventually arrive at Blackwater Chapel, an old church where they’ll be staying. Amelia won the weekend trip at Blackwater in a work raffle.
In a letter written on their first Anniversary (February 28, 2009), it talks about them getting married a year ago on leap day and them going to Scotland on their honeymoon. This morning, she has informed Adam that the agent of his favorite author, Henry Winter, has passed away. Adam has always wanted to adapt Winter’s work, and she wonders if perhaps his agent was the one keeping Winter from agreeing to adaptations. Today, as an anniversary gift, she gives him a origami paper bird for good luck, since he is very superstitious. Later that day, Adam reports that Winter has agreed to allow him to adapt his work. What Adam doesn’t know about is the crucial role she played in getting Winter to agree to the adaptation.
At Blackwater Chapel
In present day, at Blackwater, the doors initially appear to be locked, but after they look around and return to the front doors, they are wide open. Once the inside, Amelia sees someone has drawn a smiley face in the dust on a church bench. As they bring their luggage inside, Amelia is unhappy when she sees Adam has his laptop with him, since he’d promised he wouldn’t work this weekend. Amelia has always felt that there are three in their relationship — him, her and his writing.
In the kitchen, they find an unsigned note welcoming them to the place. Amelia says the only person she’s interacted with from Blackwater is the housekeeper, who sent her the directions to the place via e-mail. As Amelia explores the house, she finds a pantry filled with tools instead of food. In the corner is a huge freezer filled with home-made frozen meals. The floor is covered with huge slabs that turn out to be old tombstones. There is also a trapdoor that leads to the crypt, which is where the wine is stored.
After dinner, Adam and Amelia both reflect on their relationship, and Adam pulls out his lucky origami crane which he keeps with him. By now, Adam has adapted three of Winter’s books, and Henry eventually became like a father figure to him. However, Adam hasn’t spoken to Henry Winter in a long time, and he doesn’t want to talk to Amelia about what happened. He’s also bitter that Amelia used to care about his work, but doesn’t seem to anymore.
In a letter written on their second Anniversary (February 28, 2010), it talks about how Adam’s work is going well since the Henry Winter adaptation, but his success has been bad for their relationship. They have little time together, and they don’t have the baby she’d been hoping for. Still, for their anniversary, Adam surprises her with a house he has bought for them.
In present day, Amelia grows moody and unhappy as they chat, and she tosses his origami crane into the fire. Adam dives to retrieve it, but the crane is singed. Amelia apologizes, and they start to argue about their relationship.
A Face in the Window
To Amelia’s delight, Adam suddenly kisses her. However, Amelia then screams when she notices a face in a stained glass window. Adam comforts her, and he reassures her it was nothing. He checks outside, but sees only sheep. Adam then locks the front door, and Amelia wonders where he found the key which she hadn’t seen before.
In a letter written on their third Anniversary (February 28, 2011), it talks about how she has started going with Adam to fancy parties to help him identify people who are talking to him (since he can’t recognize their faces). She knows Adam wanted to go to a party today, despite it being their anniversary, because Henry Winter would be there, but she purposely neglects to tell him when she notices Henry trying to get his attention during the party.
In present day, the point of view shifts to Robin, a woman who lives in a cottage near Blackwater Chapel. The narration reveals that she was the one who opened the doors for Amelia and Adam, as well as being the face that Amelia saw. Robin lives a life of solitude out there, venturing out to the town of Hollowgrove once a month for supplies. The cottage had been her mother’s, now hers. The power goes out frequently due to the storms.
Meanwhile, Amelia goes down to the crypt to fetch a bottle of wine, but gets stuck in the crypt when the trapdoor slams shut and the lights go out. She has difficulty breathing as her asthma kicks in. She notices scratches on the walls. Adam says that he thinks the power has just cut out, and he goes to find her inhaler. She’s unable to find the stairs, so he goes down instead. Just then, the power comes back on, and Amelia holds him in relief.
The Bell Tower
Afterwards, they head for the bedroom. Strangely, the bed has the exact same pillows and blankets as theirs at home and the walls are painted in the exact same color. Amelia is weirded out, but Adam points out that she copied their bedroom based on a picture from a catalogue and perhaps they did the same. Everything in there is new and spotless, unlike the dusty worn feeling of the rest of the chapel.
Amelia goes into the bathroom to change into something sexy, but when she emerges, Adam is not there. Instead, he’s outside exploring. He saw a “DANGER KEEP OUT” sign and followed it through a narrow staircase. He ends up in the bell tower. He pulls out his phone (which he retrieved after Amelia hid it this morning).
He thinks about how Amelia has been behaving strangely. She had him sign off on a life insurance policy in his name when she thought he was drunk a few weeks ago. He also knows he’s not “blameless” since he has cheated on Amelia before, but he knows Amelia has cheated before as well.
Amelia finds Adam in the bell tower. As they talk, a cloud of bats fly out of the bell and nearly knock Adam out of the tower. Amelia is paralyzed with fear for a moment, but manages to recover in time to save Adam. However, Adam thinks to himself that Amelia almost let him fall to his death.
The Red Kimono
That night, Adam has a dream that he’s had similar versions of many times before. He dreams that they’ve left the chapel, and as Amelia drives them back in the rain, things seem strange as if they’re “stuck in a loop”. Then, a woman in a red kimono on appears in the road. Amelia is unable to stop in time and hits her.
When Amelia rouses him from his dream, she reminds him there is no woman in the red kimono. Instead, she urges him to write down what he can remember. They both know that the nightmare is really some version of a memory from the night his mother died when he was 13, with his mother being the one in the accident. It had been raining and nd had been out walking their dog. She was dressed in a red kimono because that was the outfit she wore when her various male “friends” stayed over. She also used to love wearing her red lipstick. She was a nurse. Due to his condition, Adam wasn’t able to see recognize the driver of the car that hit his mother, and it still haunts him.
In a letter written on their fourth Anniversary (February 29, 2012), it talks about what a difficult year it has been. She’s has been going through a second round of IVF while feeling increasingly alone since Adam is so busy. There’s a producer interested in possibly making Rock Paper Scissors into a movie, so that has automatically become his first priority. Today, she got the news that she’s pregnant, but Adam missed the appointment and wasn’t there for it. They celebrated later that night, but by that time she’d already miscarried.
In present day, Amelia and Adam go back to sleep, but Amelia is awoken by a noise downstairs. Unbeknownst to her, Robin has snuck into the chapel. Robin remembers Adam from when he was a boy, and she knows about his mother’s accident.
At the Chapel at Night
Adam eventually finds Amelia hiding in the bathroom in fear. He claims he was also awoken by the noise. He says he went downstairs but didn’t find anything. They also determine that the power is out again — the chapel has a backup generator but it doesn’t seem to be working — and now there’s no water, which they assume is because the pipes are frozen.
Adam suggests that Amelia take a sleeping pill and go back to sleep. He says they should just head back first thing tomorrow. Amelia warily agrees. She also notices that the grandfather clock in the room has stopped at just after 8, but she’s confused because she thought she heard it chiming at midnight. Unsure what to make of it, she goes to bed.
Meanwhile, Adam merely pretends to be asleep and heads back downstairs. He’s the one who has purposely shut off the power to the chapel and how he purposely trapped her in the crypt. He thinks about how he no longer believes in love and how Bob isn’t “unforgiving and suspicious” the way that Amelia is. He thinks about how Amelia threw away his running shoes because she assumed that him trying to get in shape was a sign that he was going to cheat on her. He then thinks about the various secrets he keeps, like how he slips sleeping pills in her drinks before bedtime occasionally.
In a letter written on their fifth Anniversary (February 28, 2013), it talks about how jealous she’s been acting lately. Last week, they got into a big fight after he told her about how he’d had drinks and dinner with October O’Brien, a beautiful young actress who was interested in being in the Rock Paper Scissors movie. On their anniversary, Adam says he has to work, but she finds him in their home with October instead. October claims she was there to help Adam cook an anniversary dinner for her as a surprise. She feels bad for doubting him, and the three of them end up spending the evening together.
In present day, Robin waits until Adam is back upstairs, relieved to not have been caught. She sneaks into the secret room of the chapel, which is hidden behind the library. She pulls out her favorite red lipstick. She has overheard their plan to leave tomorrow, but she has no intentions of letting that happen.
Looking for Bob
When Amelia awakes, she realizes Bob is missing and wakes Adam. They search the entire place looking for Bob to no avail. As he’s searching, Adam pulls out his cell phone and Amelia realizes he was lying when he said he didn’t have it. In the process of searching, Adam finds a drawer filled with news clippings about October O’Brien and a pamphlet that recites the history of Blackwater Chapel that hadn’t been there before. It describes how Blackwater Chapel had once been used as a Witches’ Prison (a place to imprison people accused of witchcraft before burning them at the stake) with the prisoners being kept in the crypt.
Unable to find Bob indoors, they begin searching outdoors. Outside, they find a small graveyard and an area where clawfoot bathtubs are being used as large planters. Nearby, they find a small cottage with a car parked outside. The chimney is smoking, but when they knock, no one answers. Adam peeks inside and sees the woman with a rabbit on her lap and the candles everywhere.
Inside, Robin closes all the curtains and feels distressed by Adam’s intrusion into her cottage. Nowadays, the only visitors she’s used to are Patrick (the postman) and Ewan (a local farmer). Outside, Amelia and Adam talk about her, not knowing Robin can hear what they’re saying. Finally, they decide to leave her a note taking about their missing dog, offering a reward for his return and leave.
Watching them go, Robin knows what happened to Bob since she’s the one who took him.
In a letter written on their sixth Anniversary (February 28, 2014), it talks about how things are going well for Adam. Adam is adapting another one of Henry Winter’s books, and Rock Paper Scissors is in pre-production. October’s involvement has brought in other A-list talent. They’re spending this anniversary at October’s French villa while October is out of town. They have a lovely getaway. As an anniversary gift, she gives Adam an iron key. When he asks what it opens, she replies that it’s a secret.
In present day, Adam thinks about how seeing the woman in the cottage triggered a strange feeling of déjà vu. As they head back to the chapel, it starts to hail. From far away, Adam thinks he sees someone enter the chapel through the front doors. He breaks out into a run down the hill, though Amelia is unable to keep up.
After letting herself in the chapel, Robin goes into their bedroom. She empties the shampoo bottle down the drain. She takes the origami bird from Adam’s wallet. She also takes the prescription sleeping pills from the room. Finally, she takes Amelia’s inhaler, releasing its contents and taking it with her.
The Secret Room
When Amelia finally makes it to the chapel, she looks for her inhaler, but it’s gone. Meanwhile, Adam has located the secret room behind the library. Adam says that someone was here. He also says he’s starting to remember this place and recognizes the secret room, which he once saw in a magazine.
In a letter written on their seventh Anniversary (February 28, 2015), it talks about how a few months ago October was found dead, having overdosed on alcohol and pills in an apparent suicide. At the funeral, they learned her real name was Rainbow O’Brien. This anniversary, they are in New York for the premiere of the newest Henry Winter adaptation. Adam spends the whole time hanging out with Henry. They meet for dinner and get into an argument, with Adam saying that she needs a life of her own and her saying he’s too obsessed with Henry Winter. She also says that he seems to be prioritizing Henry’s writing over his own nowadays.
In present day, Robin lies in wait as Adam and Amelia look around the secret room, the door to which Robin purposely left open for them to find. Adam says this property belongs to Henry Winter, and that this room is where Henry writes. Finally, Adam tells Amelia that Henry became upset with him when he told Henry a while back that he no longer wanted to adapt Henry’s novels. He hadn’t told Amelia since he didn’t want to admit that she was right about Henry, that he was selfish.
They hear the sound of Bob barking and soon run outside, but then it stops. Outside, they find a snowman dressed up as Henry Winter, which they are certain was not there before. Then, they find Bob’s collar resting on a gravestone that has been wiped clean. The gravestone belongs to Henry Winter, who apparently passed away in 2018 (two years ago).
Going back inside, Amelia notices her inhaler in her pocket again. Adam asks to see the e-mail she’d initially been sent regarding Blackwater Chapel. It was sent from firstname.lastname@example.org. Adam remarks that Henry “had a thing” about the number 3 and the color black. Adam also says that Henry’s agent mentioned that Henry had sent in a manuscript back in September, but according to the gravestone Henry would’ve been dead by then. Adam also notes that Henry’s headstone mentioned that he was the “father of one”.
They go to check on the car to dig it out of the snow so they can go to the police to ask for help regarding Bob and then get out of there. However, they soon discover that all the tires of the car have been slashed.
Henry’s Death and Instructions
Back at the cottage, Robin has Bob with her. She thinks back to when Henry was dying and had asked her to come help him. She’d met him at the hospital. He left against medical advice, and she had taken him back to the chapel. She saw he had a pet rabbit, which he said was named Robin. He had told her that he was halfway though his last novel, but was unlikely to be able to finish it. They talk about how Henry had made up the stories about Blackwater being a Witches’ Prison to keep people away.
When Robin had stepped away for a moment, she had returned to find him dead. On his desk was his will and a list of instructions. Robin, however, ended up ignoring much of his instruction. She didn’t tell anyone that he had died. She also didn’t touch any of the considerable amounts of money that he’d left her — except for buying some stuff in preparation of Adam and Amelia’s arrival.
In a letter written on their eighth Anniversary (February 29, 2016), it talks about how she’s thinking about leaving Adam. She has a work friend who makes her feel seen, unlike with him. With Adam busy working and her unsure about their marriage, they didn’t end up celebrating their anniversary that year. She gives him a bronze statue of rabbit as a gift, and he gives her a bronze compass.
In present day, Adam and Amelia search the secret room. Adams finds a small bronze rabbit in the desk drawer which he recognizes and finds his origami bird in another. He also finds an antique key and another drawer filled with copper pennies with smiley faces carved into them.
The Photos and the Friend from Work
In a letter written on their ninth Anniversary (February 28, 2017), she writes about how she’s been wanting to suggest marriage counseling to Adam. They celebrated their anniversary at home this year. Her friend from work showed up unexpectedly, after having a bad date. Her friend had apparently had a makeover for her date, and now the two friends look very similar. After the friend leaves, Adam remarks that the friend seems to have an “actress” quality about her. After having spent the night listening to the friend’s miserable stories about single life, they each talk about how they love each other.
Seeing all the anniversary gifts gathered here, Adam accuses Amelia of being a part of whatever is going on here. Amelia denies it. They start inspecting the photos in the study, including three that seem to have been added recently. However, they first notice an open door. Inside is a child’s room, covered in dust. There’s a Jack-in-the-Box toy in the room too, but the word “Jack” has been crossed out and replaced with the name “Adam”.
In a letter written on their tenth Anniversary (February 28, 2018), it talks about writes about how today should be their anniversary, but isn’t. The day before their anniversary, Adam had seen an interview that Henry did where he disparaged Adam’s work. He’d been upset. The next day, she’d left work early to surprise him — only to find Adam in bed with her friend from work. Adam had claimed that he thought she was her. He begged for a chance to try to fix things.
In present day, Amelia points out a photo to Adam. It’s of Adam on his wedding day. Henry is in the background. Amelia then tells him that the woman in the photo isn’t her. It’s photo of him marrying his first wife, Robin, who is Henry’s daughter. (Amelia is Robin’s friend from work.) At first, Adam doesn’t believe that his ex-wife could be Henry’s daughter, but then he thinks about how Robin never wanted to talk about her family and how Henry’s gravestone mentioned he had a child.
(This is the big twist in the novel. All the letters were written by Robin, not Amelia. Amelia is the friend from work who later became Adam’s second wife.)
Rock Paper Scissors
Back in 2018, after learning of Adam’s infidelity, Robin had left Adam. Robin thinks bitterly of how she’d been kind to Amelia at work, but Amelia had stabbed her in the back by going after her husband. Robin regrets leaving Bob behind. Around that time is when Henry had reached out, saying he was dying and asking for help.
Robin’s mother died by drowning in a claw-foot bath. Robin has always believed that Henry was responsible. He even wrote a book later about a man killing his wife in the bathtub. When Robin wrote a story in school about a novelist who committed murders and then wrote about it, she got in trouble and Henry cut off her hair. Robin also always resented Henry for wanting to solve things with money, which is why she refuses to use the money he left her. Robin is the one who completed her father’s book (not for his sake, but because she likes writing and Henry always doubted her abilities) and submitted it to his agent. She felt vindicated when the agent readily accepted it.
One of the things Robin took with her before leaving Adam was her box of anniversary letters. Even after things ended, she continued to write them:
In a letter written on (what would have been) their eleventh Anniversary (February 28, 2019), Robin writes about living in a Scottish cottage while he’s in London with Amelia now. Robin and Adam are recently divorced by now. She writes about how she was the one who asked her father to let Adam adapt one of his books. Robin had hoped Adam would use that opportunity to open doors to write his own stories, but instead Adam’s career ended up being defined by Henry’s writing. Meanwhile, Robin knows he was using Adam to get to her. In the letter, Robin talks about how she’s now writing a new book.
In present day, Amelia thinks about how her situation looks bad (marrying her friend’s ex-husband), but she thinks their marriage was over long before she showed up. Robin had always been complaining about him at work. Amelia and Adam got married right after his divorce from Robin was finalized.
Amelia tells Adam that they should just grab their stuff and leave, and he doesn’t say much since he still seems to be in shock that this all turned out to be some type of revenge plot by Robin. However, as they go back into their bedroom, they see there’s a red, silk kimono laid out on the bed, and on the mirror the words “ROCK PAPER SCISSORS” has been scrawled in red lipstick.
In a letter written in present day and on (what would have been) their twelfth Anniversary (February 29, 2020), Robin writes that she has completed the “ROCK PAPER SCISSORS” book, about “a couple who have been married for ten years. Every anniversary they exchange traditional gifts – paper, copper, tin – and each year the wife writes her husband a letter that she never lets him read”. The couple goes on a weekend getaway to save their troubled marriage “but things aren’t what or who they seem” (basically, it’s the plot of this book). She plans to submit the book to Henry’s agent so Adam can finally see some version of his beloved story on film, but only if he ends things with Amelia.
Robin also writes about how Henry had hired a private investigator named Samuel Smith to keep tabs on them. It wasn’t a coincidence that she started working with Robin and starting asking questions about Adam. Samuel learned that Amelia and Adam’s paths crossed thirty years ago. Amelia was the one who the police suspected had been in the car that hit Adam’s mother in that hit-and-run. She got away because Adam couldn’t pick her out of the line-up. Robin doesn’t know why Amelia decided to get close to Adam once again.
Confrontation and Ending
In present day, Adam admits that he was the one who turned the generator off because he thought that if there was no power, Amelia would give up on this weekend and they could go home early. They decide to leave, but they realize they are locked in. Then, an envelope with Adam’s name on it slides under the door. Inside are Robin’s letters.
Adam reads the letters and feels sick after learning that Amelia is the one who killed his mother. He thinks about how Robin had been the love of his life and everything Amelia was one big mistake. He then confronts Amelia with the information that he’s learned. Amelia starts having trouble breathing. Suddenly she reaches for a knife and starts coming towards him, but then Robin comes towards her with a pair of sharp scissors.
Flashing forwards, in a letter written six months later (September 16, 2020), Robin and Adam are now back together. She talks about how no one will ever know what happened to Amelia. Her book version of Rock Paper Scissors has now been published (under Henry’s name), and Adam will be adapting it for the screen.
Meanwhile, Adam’s nightmare about his mother have finally stopped now that he has some closure. He still feels guilty that his mother had been out walking his dog when she died. He also recalls what really happened. At 13, Adam had met a girl who lived nearby (Amelia). She was his first kiss. She taught him to steal a car and how to drive it. The night his mother died, he had been driving with Amelia when she had placed her hand on his crotch, distracting him. Adam was the one driving when the car hit his mother. After the accident, she had pushed him out and driven off.
(This is the second big twist in the novel. Adam was the one driving in the car that hit his mother. Amelia had been with him and drove the car away.)
The book then switches to the point-of-view of Samuel Smith (the private investigator). He recalls being hired by Henry to follow Robin and Adam. Henry had told him about Robin. Robin’s mother had been a romance novelist who died when Robin was 8. Robin had an overactive imagination and told stories that sometimes got her in trouble. When Henry got mad at her for it once, Robin cut off her own hair. When she was 18, Robin ran away. He didn’t hear from her again until she asked for help regarding Adam. Henry had always liked Adam.
Two years after Sam had stopped hearing from Henry, he went looking for him. He ends up at Blackwater Chapel. He thinks he can hear someone whisper his name. He finds Henry’s grave. The epitaph has been altered to read: “
FATHER KILLER OF ONE, AUTHOR OF MANY.” Nearby, there’s a box of trinkets. It contains a paper crane, a vintage key and finally a sapphire engagement ring with a human finger still attached to it.
The book ends with Sam running away from Blackwater.