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The Housemaid’s Secret
(Review, Synopsis & Summary)

By Freida McFadden



Book review and synopsis for The Housemaid’s Secret by Freida McFadden, a fun and twisty fast-paced follow-up to McFadden's bestselling novel.

Synopsis

In The Housemaid's Secret, Millie is continuing to work as a housekeeper, though by now, Millie is also studying to pursue a career in social work and is dating a handsome and stable lawyer who loves her.

She spent some time in the past helping women out of bad domestic situations and took on the risks of that doing that work. Millie thought those days were behind her until she comes across a situation that doesn't feel right to her. She's working for Douglas Garrick, a very wealthy man, but his wife is supposedly "unwell" and never comes out of her room.

Millie's suspicions only increase when she notices some blood in the laundry and finally she insists on meeting Wendy, an encounter that only strengthens her resolve to do something about this situation.

But Douglas is a dangerous man and Millie needs to decide what she's willing to risk to help Wendy when she has a lot to lose herself as well...

(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 Housemaid’s Secret
Quick Plot Summary

Two-paragraph version: Millie is a housekeeper who has helped many women get out of abusive relationships. Millie gets hired by Wendy for that purpose, to get away from her husband Douglas. When things get ugly, Millie shoots Douglas, and he dies. However, Wendy soon claims to the police that Millie was having an affair with Douglas and shot him because he ended things with her. It's revealed that Wendy has been having an affair and wanted to leave Douglas, but the pre-nup meant she would get nothing. The man Millie "shot" was actually Wendy's lover, Russell. But there were blanks in the gun. Instead, Wendy invited the real Douglas over afterwards and shoots him for real, and then framed Millie for it.

Millie reaches out to her ex Enzo and together they figure out what happened. Meanwhile, Wendy finds out Douglas left all his money to charity in his will. Also, he installed a security camera at their place so the police know what really happened. Then, Russell's wife Marybeth confronts Wendy and Russell. She kills Russell and forces Wendy to give a confession and write a suicide note. She drugs Wendy to force her to overdose on heart medication (which it turns out Millie gave to Marybeth for that purpose). Millie is exonerated and moves in with Enzo.


In Part I, Millie is back to doing housekeeping and is seeing a handsome lawyer named Brock, though he doesn't know the truth about her past. For a few years, she was doing "housekeeping jobs" where she and her ex Enzo were helping to free women from bad domestic situations, but she stopped doing it after Enzo left to care for his mother in Sicily two years ago. She's also enrolled in community college to get her degree to pursue a career in social work.

Millie gets fired from a job after the infant gets too attached an starts calling her "mama". After a few weeks of interviewing, Millie takes a job with Douglas Garrick and his wife Wendy. They have no kids and live in a fancy penthouse apartment. Douglas is the CEO of a company called Coinstock. However, Wendy is unwell and never leaves the guest bedroom.

Millie eventually learns that Douglas got her number from Wendy, and that Wendy got her number from one of the last women she and Enzo helped two years ago. Millie insists on talking to Wendy, and Wendy admits that she wants help getting out of her relationship. They secretly arrange for Wendy to go stay with a friend, but Wendy says that Douglas was there waiting for her when she arrived. Millie is fired.

When Millie goes in for her last day, she hears Douglas choking Wendy. Millie grabs their gun which Wendy had showed her before to scare him into stopping. When he doesn't stop, she shoots him. He dies. Wendy reassures Millie that she'll say it was an intruder and wipe the gun and tells Millie to just leave.

Millie is soon questioned for Douglas's murder. Wendy is now claiming that Douglas and Millie were having an affair and that be ended things, which is why Millie shot him. When the TV stations start reporting on the murder, Millie sees a photo of the real Douglas Garrick and realizes the man that she's been dealing with and who she shot is someone else.

Meanwhile, Brock breaks up with Millie when he learns about the shooting and the truth about her past. And Millie has recently learned that Enzo is back in town.

Part II. The book switches to Wendy's point of view. She met Douglas Garrick four years ago with the intent of seducing him, and it was surprisingly easily. Even when they were dating, he irritated her by being sloppy, nerdy and out of shape, but she married him anyway. His best friend insisted on a pre-nup, but it was generous, so that she would still get $10 million in the event of a divorce. Two years into the marriage, she meets Russell, who reminds her of a fitter and more put-together version of Douglas.

She falls in love with him and decides to just divorce Douglas. But Douglas finds out, gathers evidence of her cheating and lets her know that the pre-nup stipulates that she gets nothing if there's evidence of infidelity. He tells her she can stay in their penthouse for a few months, but then he's selling it. Knowing that she'd get nothing in a divorce, but everything if Douglas were dead, Wendy eventually starts fantasizing about Douglas's death. Wendy remembers that her friend once mentioned a "cleaning woman" who had helped other women out and would be willing to do anything if she thought a woman was being abused.

Wendy concocts the plan to make Millie think that Russell is Douglas and that she's being abused. The night that Millie "shoots" Douglas, it's really Russell and the gun is filled with blanks. Instead, after Millie leaves, Wendy invites the real Douglas over and she shoots him with the intention of pinning it all on Millie.

In Parts III and IV, Millie reaches out to Enzo for help. Together, they track down the man that Millie thought was Douglas, who is actually Russell, and learn that he is alive and well. They also learn that he has a cabin, which is where they suspect he is staying.

Meanwhile at the cabin, Wendy and Russell are celebrating over wine when Wendy gets a call from Douglas's lawyer. He says that Douglas actually changed his will a month ago to donate all his assets to charity. Wendy then gets a call from the NYPD to say that her husband installed a security camera in the back entrance of the penthouse last year, and they know that Douglas hasn't been in there in months. They also know that Millie left the penthouse prior to Douglas arriving there the night he was killed.

Wendy gets off the phone to find the Russell is dead. His throat has been slashed. She sees that Marybeth, his wife, is there. Marybeth forces Wendy to write a confession and suicide note, and then she tells her that she's spiked her wine with a heart medication so she will overdose and die.

The book ends with Millie meeting with an officer who tells her she's in the clear and that she should reach out to him, Officer Rodriguez, if she ever needs help with the abuse victims that she works with. Millie thinks about how she was the one who told Marybeth about her husband's affair and who gave her the heart medication to use on Wendy.

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

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Book Review

The Housemaid’s Secret is Freida McFadden’s follow-up to her bestselling mystery-thriller, The Housemaid which came out in January 2022. The third novel in this series, The Housemaid is Watching, will be released later this year, in June 2024.

I’ll start by saying that I would definitely recommend reading The Housemaid before reading The Housemaid’s Secret, which is the second book of this series. I think the first book provides a lot of context for the story. I also just think it’s a more entertaining book in general so there’s not much of a reason to start with the second book unless you just don’t have access to the first one for some reason.

The Housemaid’s Secret picks up four years after where the previous novel left off, and it gives a brief rundown of what happened in the interim. Millie is now doing just housekeeping, though she spent some years working with various abuse victims. When she’s hired by a man whose wife never leaves their guest bedroom, she knows it’s a situation that she feels compelled to rectify.

It’s an entertaining read with a similar writing style to the first novel, but I’d say it plot flows less naturally than the first book. Whereas the first book had a really natural forward progression, the plot of The Housemaid’s Secret feels a little more contrived and forced. It’s still a quick read which makes it easy to just keep going, but I felt somewhat less compelled to see what happens next.

I think if you liked the first book, you will probably enjoy the second, but in general the plot feels a little messier and more unfocused than the first. Despite those things though, it’s still a fun and twisty and fast-moving mystery-thriller with some surprises up its sleeve.

I’ll also note that, I’ve binged a few of Freida McFadden’s mystery-thrillers lately, and so far all of the ones I’ve read have had really satisfying endings. This book is the same. I wasn’t entirely enamored with it in the beginning, but by the end I was on board.

the housekeeper's secret promo

Read it or Skip it?

The Housemaid’s Secret is an entertaining read if you liked the first book. As a standalone novel, the first one is definitely the stronger of the two. Still, this title has plenty of fun twists and turns and is a capable, fast-paced mystery-thriller with a satisfying ending.

I thought one of the big twists in the book was a little predictable and that this book overall isn’t as cleanly plotted as the first book, but I still had fun reading this. Mostly, I liked the first book enough that I was interested to continue Millie’s story and this one concludes in a way that’s fun to read.

I think if you’re in a similar boat, you’ll probably enjoy this book too. I appreciated that it definitely is not a re-tread of the previous book, so get ready for another fun twisty ride if you decide to pick this one up.

See The Housemaid’s Secret on Amazon.

The Housemaid’s Secret Audiobook Review

Narrator: Lauryn Allman
Length: 9 hours 45 minutes

Hear a sample of The Housemaid’s Secret audiobook on Libro.fm.

Ending & Explanations

See the Questions, Ending & Explanations for The Housemaid's Secret

Book Excerpt

Read the first pages of The Housemaid’s Secret



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