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The Heiress
(Review, Book Summary & Spoilers)

By Rachel Hawkins

Book review, full book summary and synopsis for The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins, a mystery-thriller novel about a fortune left by a wealthy heiress and the secrets she kept.


In The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins, Ruby McTavish is a wealthy and notorious heiress who leaves her estate including a large sum of money and stately mansion to her adopted son, Camden. Ruby is known both for her highly-publicized kidnapping when she was a toddler, as well as a series of marriages which all ended in the deaths of her four husbands under questionable circumstances.

Ten years later, Camden and his wife Jules are living a simple life with no connection to the McTavish family apart from his last name. But his estranged relatives in the McTavish family demand that he come home to deal with issues pertaining to the house and the will. Camden and Jules go, but feels a deep sense of trepidation, not knowing what secrets and hidden family history may come to light in the process...

(The Full Plot Summary is also available, below)

Full Plot Summary

Chapter-by-Chapter Summary
See the Chapter-by-Chapter Summary of The Heiress
Quick Plot Summary

Camden McTavish is the adopted son of Ruby McTavish, a wealthy heiress who was once kidnapped as a 3-year-old. She also had four husbands who all died mysterious deaths. Upon her death, she left Cam all her wealth and the family mansion.

Cam and his wife Jules have been living a simple life, but are beckoned home by his extended family who still live in the mansion, The Ashby House. Cam's estranged extended family don't consider him a true McTavish, and they want him to turn over his inheritance to them. Jules secretly wants Cam to kick out his family and for them to live in luxury in the mansion.

In a series of letters, it's revealed at Ruby murdered all of her husbands for varying reasons and that she's actually Dora Darnell, a poor girl that her father purchased from Dora's parents when the real Ruby McTavish went missing. Cam's cousin Ben presents him with this evidence, but Cam tells them that it's meaningless since the money was left to Ruby either way.

Ben then threatens to accuse Cam of killing Ruby by giving her pills. Cam, in frustration, agrees to give up his inheritance. Ben then kills his grandmother, Nelle, since she would've been next in line for the inheritance if Cam gave it up. Jules sees how toxic this family is and understands why Cam wants nothing to do with this place, and she knows she loves him more than she wants this life. Jules accuses Ben of murdering Nelle, and he attacks her. Jules then burns down the house, with Ben and his sister Libby in it, so all the McTavishes are dead.

At the end of the book, Cam and Jules are now living elsewhere. It's revealed that Ruby actually wrote all those letters to Jules, who is actually a Darnell (Caitlin Julianne Darnell) and Dora/Ruby's great niece by blood. Jules reached out to Ruby, and Ruby concocted a plan to set Jules up with Cam in order to "pay back" the Darnells for the pain their family caused them. Ruby passed away before their plan went into action, but Jules happened to meet Cam anyway. It's also revealed that Cam figured out who Jules really was and that it was a setup by Ruby, but he fell for Jules anyway.

As a last revelation, the book hints that Grace, the nanny that had been watching baby Ruby when she went missing, may have abducted her in order to get her away from her toxic family.

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

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Book Review

The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins was published in January of this year. I read Hawkin’s mystery-thriller The Wife Upstairs a few years back, so this release caught my eye though I was on the fence about whether the premise interested me.

In The Heiress, Camden is the adopted son of a very wealthy heiress who inherited a large fortune and majestic estate. Camden was left everything in her will, but has spurned that life since becoming an adult, leading a simple life as a high school teacher at a prep school.

When his family demands that he come home to sort out matters pertaining to the house and his adopted mother’s will, Camden reluctantly agrees at the urging of his wife, Jules. But Camden knows his family’s history and dynamics are complicated, and it may very well come back to haunt him…

The Heiress is more moderately paced as far as mystery-thrillers go, recounting a lot of family history and offering up a good amount of exposition as the story ambles along. I’ve been reading a lot of very quick page-turners lately, and it took me a moment to get into the pace of this book, but once I settled in, I found it pleasant to follow along.

For most of the book, it steadily unravels the history of Ruby McTavish, a wealthy heiress with a colorful life, starting with her kidnapping as an infant and continuing with the mysterious deaths of her four husbands.

Towards the very end, the plot builds, resulting in a few revelations and a couple plot twists.

Some Criticisms

I ended this book feeling very lukewarm about it. The story is not bad, but it reads a lot like a family drama, except without the emotional depth or types of interpersonal insights you generally want in that type of story. It’s still more of a generic mystery-thriller level story.

But then, as a mystery-thriller, the book is just okay. There are some revelations at the end and some basic thriller-type moments, but it’s mostly kind of ho-hum stuff. The plot twists are a little inconsequential. It all fits together fine and basically works, but not in a particularly satisfying or surprising way. I didn’t have a bad time reading it, as it sort of just moves along, but by the end, instead of being at the edge of my seat, I felt ready for this to conclude.

In general, I’d say there’s a certain lack of tension or suspense which I’m generally expecting in a mystery-thriller.

Read it or Skip it?

I have a hard time recommending this unless you’ve really run out of other stuff to read. It feels bad to say that because it’s not like this book fails in such a profound way, but there’s been a lot of really great mystery-thrillers lately, and so it’s hard for me to identify who I’d recommend this to.

Like if you want a really fast page-turner with a solid plot twist? The Teacher. You want a fantastic mystery-thriller something psychologically interesting to dissect? None of This is True. You want something fun and interesting with lots of unexpected surprises? Listen for the Lie. You want to try a kind of uneven book that tries to do something unique with its story structure? The Fury. Want some supernatural fun? Murder Road.

Or maybe you just want a family drama (not a mystery-thriller) involving ownership of a house and trying to make sense of their family history? The Dutch House by Ann Patchett is a fantastic novel that’s stuck with me for years.

I feel like for most of the mystery-thrillers I’ve read lately, even if they weren’t perfect, I can think of people who might still be a good audience for it, depending on what their specific tastes are. With the Heiress, I’m struggling a little.

So, this book is not bad, I just felt kind of ambivalent about it.

See The Heiress on Amazon.

The Heiress Audiobook Review

Narrator: 8 hours 20 minutes
Length: Dan Bittner, Eliza Foss, John Pirhalla & Patti Murin

Hear a sample of The Heiress audiobook on

Book Excerpt

Read the first pages of The Heiress

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