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The Inmate
(Review, Book Summary & Spoilers)

By Freida McFadden

Book review, full book summary and synopsis for The Inmate by Freida McFadden, a bare-bones page-turner about a nurse practitioner taking a new job in a maximum-security prison.


In The Inmate by Freida McFadden, Brooke Sullivan has moved back to her hometown after a decade away and is starting a new job as a nurse practitioner a maximum security prison.

The job was far from her first choice, as it is also where her high school boyfriend, Shane, is an inmate. And she was the one who put him there.

Brooke is here trying to get a fresh start, but she'll soon have to confront once again the events of that rainy, tragic night 11 years ago...

(The Full Plot Summary is also available, below)

Full Plot Summary

Ending & Explanations
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Chapter-by-Chapter Summary
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Quick Plot Summary

Two-paragraph version: Brooke moves back to her hometown to work as a nurse at a prison where her high school boyfriend, Shane, is an inmate. Shane is in there because of a night where they were hanging out and their friends were murdered. Brooke got away and identified him as the killer. Shane is also the father of her 10-year-old son, Josh. In present day, Brooke runs into the only other survivor from that night, Tim, and they start dating. But then she finds a dead body in his basement and recants her testimony, and she accuses Tim instead. Shane is released, and Brooke introduces him to Josh. While Shane and Josh are on a walk in the woods, Shane abducts Josh and tells Brook over the phone that he's going to make Brooke suffer for sending him to jail.

Brooke goes for help, and runs into her babysitter, Margie, who then admits that she's been lying about her identity and that she's Shane's mom, Pamela. Pamela and Shane actually planned all the murders that night and planted the body in Tim's basement. Brooke was always the target, everyone else was collateral damage. (Pamela is bitter because she had an affair with Brooke's dad. He promised to support her and leave his family, but never did.) Brooke manages to take Pamela's gun and shoot her. She then goes to find Josh and sees that Shane died in an accident in the snow. Tim's charges are dropped. In the Epilogue, we find out that Josh was warned long ago by Tim that Shane was dangerous and wanted to hurt Brooke. When Josh heard Shane being mean to Brooke over the phone, Josh engineered Shane's accident and murdered him to protect his mom.

Brooke Sullivan has moved back to her hometown after a decade away and is starting a job as a nurse practitioner at the prison where her high school boyfriend, Shane Nelson, is an inmate. He's in prison because of a night 11 years ago when they were hanging out with some friends at Shane's house. That night, three of their friends were killed, while Tim Reese, Shane and Brooke survived. Tim and Shane both claimed it was the other guy who did it. Brooke didn't see who attacked her, but the attacker had smelled like sandalwood, the scent Shane was wearing, so she accused him. As a result, Shane has been in prison for a decade. He's also the father of Brooke's 10-year-old son, Josh, since she got pregnant that night.

In present day, Brooke is reunited with Shane in prison. Brooke also runs into Tim, the other survivor. Brooke starts dating Tim, but there's news of a missing woman, Kelli, that Tim once dated. (In the summer 11 years ago, there was another girl found murdered, Tracy, that Tim had dated). Brooke soon finds Kelli's body in Tim's basement. She tells the police and he's arrested. She then recants her testimony about Shane, saying that it must've been Tim that night, and Shane is released. Brooke goes to pick Shane up, and introduces him to Josh finally. The next day, when Brooke takes Shane back to his house along with Josh, Shane and Josh go for a walk.

Being back in the house triggers her memories, and Brooke realizes that it must've been two people who conducted the murders together, Shane and Tim. There's also news that a prison guard that Shane didn't get along with was found dead today. Brooke then calls Shane, who tells her that he has Josh and is going to make her suffer for what she's done to him. Brooke runs for help and she encounters her babysitter, Margie, but she turns out to be Shane's mother, whose real name is Pamela Nelson.

Pamela then pulls a gun on her and says she's wrong about Tim. Tim was innocent. He was left alive that night to be the patsy, but Brooke ruined the plan by getting away and accusing Shane. Instead, Pamela was the one who helped Shane murder everyone. Shane also murdered Tracy that summer 11 years ago, and Pamela killed and planted Kelli's body in Tim's basement for the police to find so that Brooke would recant her accusation of Shane. Pamela says she had an affair with Brooke's father for a year when Shane was young, and he promised to leave his family for her and support her, but he didn't. Instead, she watched Brooke and her mother live the life she should've had. Pamela admits to engineering the car accident that killed Brooke's parents. Now, Pamela plans to kill Brooke so she, Shane and Josh can be a family.

There's a struggle, and Pamela is shot. When Brooke gets to Josh, he says that there was a snowdrift that fell on Shane. Brooke sees that Shane is dead. A month later, Tim has been released from jail. Pamela ends up surviving the gunshot wound and confesses to her crimes. Josh encourages Brooke to speak to Tim. He's angry with her, but he says that he doesn't hate her. The begin to rebuild their relationship.

In the Epilogue, the book reveals that Tim had warned Josh that Shane was dangerous and could hurt Brooke. During their walk, Josh heard Shane being mean to Brooke on the phone, and he saw an opportunity. Josh was the one who purposely made the snowdrift fall on Shane and then he killed Shane with a large icicle.

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

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Book Review

With The Inmate by Freida McFadden, I’m continuing my recent streak of working my way through some of her very quick thrillers. I’ve been wanting to get my mind off of things, and I thought this might do the trick.

In The Inmate, Brooke Sullivan has taken a job at a men’s maximum security prison as a nurse practitioner on staff where her ex-boyfriend, Shane, is being held. She’s moved back to her hometown after a decade away, following an incident where she ended up testifying against Shane, landing him in prison. Brooke needs this job, but she worries about what unsettled business might come up and what danger she might be in with him around…

Like all of Freida McFadden’s mystery-thrillers, this book is definitely a page-turner and it moves very, VERY quickly. This whole book is just straight up plot with scant descriptions of anything else that doesn’t move the plot along, probably more so than any of the other books of hers that I’ve read thus far.

I was definitely in the mood for something quick and hopefully surprising, and this mostly served that purpose, though it was probably a little too utilitarian at times. The writing is pretty … basic. I mean, it honestly just describes what is happening for the most part and that’s about it.

I do think McFadden has a bit of a sense of humor that manages to sneak its way into some of her narration from time to time. Without giving anything away, there’s a spiderman joke in there that was completely out of place but made me actually laugh out loud.

The story itself is a little weaker than other books of hers I read. I also think the premise of The Inmate is a little weak to begin with and kind of dreary. Plus, our protagonist Brooke sort of has to be willingly obtuse in order to make the book work.

For a long stretch of the story, is seems like conclusion is going to be fairly obvious, but don’t worry, this book has much more than a surprise or two up its sleeve. The ending has plenty of surprises … but also feels really messy … but it’s also a little fun in that silly, mystery-thriller kind of way.

Read it or Skip it?

The Inmate is about as bare-bones as it gets if you just want something that’s all plot and plot twists. This is definitely a book only for people who read a bunch of mystery-thrillers, as the writing is pretty questionable, as is the plausibility of basically everything.

Add to that a weak premise and less compelling story, it’s definitely in the B-tier of McFadden’s thrillers that I’ve read. That said, the ending is a little all over the place, but has a lot of reveals which some people will enjoy. It’s a little zany, but there are definitely those who will get a kick out of it, I think.

For most people, this book is probably a skip. But if you’re out of stuff to read and you’re just looking for something that’ll go by really, really fast with some zany surprises in store, then this’ll do it.

See The Inmate on Amazon.

The Inmate Audiobook Review

Narrator: Leslie Howard
Length: 8 hours 4 minutes

Hear a sample of The Inmate audiobook on

Ending & Explanations

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Book Excerpt

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