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The Coworker
(Review, Book Summary & Spoilers)

By Freida McFadden

Book review, full book summary and synopsis for The Coworker by Freida McFadden, a mystery-thriller about a woman who becomes the prime suspect when her co-worker disappears and turns up dead.


In Freida McFadden's The Coworker, Natalie is beautiful and the star salesperson at Vixed, a nutritional supplement company. She's well-liked and organizes an annual 5K race for charity.

Dawn is a little strange and off-putting and has joined the company as an accountant. When Dawn doesn't show up to work one day, Natalie is concerned. Then, Dawn's phone ring, and a voice on the other end asks for help.

Soon, it's clear that something has happened to Dawn, and Natalie finds herself being targeted as the prime suspect...

(The Full Plot Summary is also available, below)

Full Plot Summary

Ending & Explanations
See the Questions, Ending and Explanations
Chapter-by-Chapter Summary
See the Chapter-by-Chapter Summary of The Coworker
Quick Plot Summary

Natalie and Dawn are coworkers when Dawn goes missing and soon turns up dead. Natalie becomes the prime suspect when it becomes clear from Dawn's e-mail history with her friend Mia that Natalie had been bullying her, that Dawn had found out about an affair Natalie was having with their boss Seth and Dawn had confronted Natalie about missing funds from her sales accounts the day before she disappeared. Natalie is arrested on the same day as the annual 5K race she organizes.

It's revealed that Dawn is alive and conspired with Natalie's boyfriend Caleb to frame Natalie for her death. The dead body the police found was not Dawn's body. Dawn's e-mail history was faked to incriminate Natalie. Dawn was friends with Mia from high school, and Natalie and her friend Tara bullied her until she killed herself. Caleb was Mia's half-brother so he dated Natalie just to help incriminate her.

Seth realizes that Natalie is innocent of the embezzling accusations since no money is missing. Seth and Natalie are able to unravel Dawn and Caleb's plan. Caleb admits to it when he realizes Dawn is planning on killing herself to ensure that Natalie goes to prison for life, and they all stop Dawn. In the end and Epilogue, we learn that Natalie did embezzle money, but replaced the funds by skimming money from the 5K race. Natalie also finds out that the dead body the police found was Tara's body, and Dawn likely killed her. She doesn't say anything because Dawn has kept quiet about Natalie embezzling funds, and the two women have an unspoken agreement to keep each other's secrets.

Part I

Natalie and Dawn are co-workers with adjacent cubicles at Vixed, a nutritional supplement company. Natalie is beautiful and the star salesperson while Dawn is awkward and an accountant. Dawn is also an odd person who is obsessed with turtles. Natalie is concerned when Dawn doesn't show up to work, and Dawn's desk phone gets a call where a woman's panicked voice says "help me". She drops by Dawn's home and finds blood on the carpet and calls the police.

It's soon revealed via e-mails that Dawn wrote to her friend Mia that Natalie has been friendly with Dawn, but there has been tension because Dawn had been pointing out Natalie's excessive business expenses. Dawn also found out five months ago that Natalie was having an affair with their boss, Seth, though she later ended it when she didn't think he'd leave his wife.

Natalie is questioned by the police who point out that her prints are on a knife and a wine glass in Dawn's home. Natalie isn't sure how they got there. Natalie ends up having her boyfriend, Caleb (who also works for Vixed), lie and say that they were together all night before Dawn's disappearance. In actuality, he left her place at 9:30 PM. Dawn's body is soon found, confirming her death by blunt force trauma. There is also an object missing from Dawn's turtle figurine collection.

More e-mails Dawn wrote show that Natalie started being mean to Dawn at some point and making fun of her to others. Natalie also tends to lie to customers about their products and refuses refunds in order to get her sales numbers up.

In present day, Seth has left his wife, and Natalie sleeps with him once more though she declines to leave Caleb for him. Natalie also repeatedly finds a small turtle figurine on her desk that she though she keeps throwing it out. At home, she finds a large bloody ceramic turtle in her laundry hamper. She smashes it to pieces and disposes of it at the beach. She has also been getting calls from a blocked number and the install a tracking app to find out who it is.

Dawn's recent e-mails reveals that a week before her disappearance Dawn had discovered missing company funds associated with Natalie's accounts. She had confronted Natalie about the embezzlement, but Natalie denied it and asked Dawn for her help in figuring out the truth. The night before Dawn's disappearance (Monday), Natalie had plans to go over to Dawn's place around 10PM so they could work on it.

In present day, Caleb admits to the police that he left Dan's place at 10PM that Monday, and the police search Natalie's home. Natalie gets another block number call, but tracks it down to a motel near Providence, Rhode Island. That Saturday, Natalie goes to attend the 5K charity run that she organizes each year in honor of her childhood friend Amelia who had cerebral palsy, however, the police show up to arrest her.

Part II

In a motel in Providence, Dawn and Caleb meet up. Dawn is alive, and the body the police found wasn't hers. It's revealed that Dawn was friends with Amelia (who went by "Mia") from high school, but Natalie and her friend Tara bullied Mia for having cerebral palsy until she killed herself. Dawn feels Natalie got away with killing her so she decided to frame Natalie for her death. She conspired with Caleb, who is Mia's half-brother. Dawn faked the e-mails in order to incriminate Natalie, and Caleb pretended to date Natalie for the same reason.

Seth ends up bailing Natalie out after he realizes that no funds are missing so the embezzling accusations are false. The police have also established that the body they found didn't belong to Dawn. As they talk, Natalie realizes something strange is going on since Seth says Dawn and Caleb knew each other before Caleb started working for Vixed. Seth goes with Natalie to the motel and they bribe the front desk guy who tells them that Caleb and Dawn stayed there together.

When Natalie goes home, Caleb is there asking for help, saying that Dawn is thinking about killing herself to ensure that the police have a body to find. Caleb loves Dawn and wants to propose to her and doesn't want anything to happen to her. They go looking for Dawn and Natalie finds her. They manage to stop her from hurting herself. Natalie apologizes for what happened with Mia, but says that she was just a dumb kid. When they're all headed back, Natalie hears on the news that the body the police found was identified as belonging to Tara Wilkes (the friend that bullied Mia along with Natalie), and Natalie realizes Dawn must've killed her.

In Epilogue, Natalie and Seth are together, and Caleb and Dawn are still together. We learn that Natalie did embezzle money, but replaced the funds by skimming money from the 5K race. Dawn knows this but doesn't say anything because Natalie hasn't said anything about her killing Tara. Two women have an unspoken agreement to keep each other's secrets.

For more detail, see the full Chapter-by-Chapter Summary.

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Book Review

The Coworker by Freida McFadden came out last year, and since I’ve enjoyed a couple of her books now, I’ve been continuing to work my way through her collection of very fast-paced mystery-thrillers.

In The Coworker, Natalie is a beautiful star salesperson for a nutritional supplement company. Dawn is a relatively new employee who is a little strange and joins the company as their accountant. Dawn is also very regimented, so Natalie is surprised and concerned when Dawn doesn’t show up for work one day. Soon, it seems like Dawn may be dead and suddenly Natalie finds herself as the prime suspect…

McFadden’s mystery-thrillers are all extremely fast-paced, quick reads, this one included. Even the ones where the storyline is weaker or the plot twists are a little crazy, it’s hard to get too upset about since they go by so quickly it never feels like a slog either way.

I liked the story behind The Coworker a lot, as the book reveals pieces of Natalie and Dawn’s relationship. The biggest plot twist is pretty guessable, but honestly I still enjoyed the book anyway. Like I said, it moves really fast and the story itself is interesting enough.

Read it or Skip it?

This was the only Freida McFadden mystery-thriller where I managed to mostly guess what the big plot twist was going to be, but I still enjoyed the book. I thought the storyline was good. The ending is a little dark. This book is a little less twisty than some of McFadden’s other offerings, but it’s still a fast and fun read.

The Coworker is one of Freida McFadden’s lower-rated books, I think probably because it’s less twisty and the big plot twist is less of a huge surprise since she drops some pretty big hints. But I still liked it. Probably one to read after you’ve run through some of her other stuff, but still worth a read if you’re looking for some quick and easy mystery-thriller fodder.

See The Coworker on Amazon.

The Coworker Audiobook

Narrator: Alyson Krawchuk
Length: 8 hours 11 minutes

Hear a sample of The Coworker audiobook on

Ending & Explanations

See the Questions, Ending & Explanations for The Coworker

Book Excerpt

Read the first pages of The Coworker

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