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The Housemaid’s Secret Summary, Characters and Themes

The Housemaid’s Secret is a psychological thriller novel by Freida McFadden, known for The Housemaid series. The story revolves around a seemingly perfect family with a dark secret, told from the perspectives of both the housemaid and the wife. 

As the housemaid becomes increasingly entangled in the family’s affairs, she uncovers disturbing truths that threaten to destroy their carefully constructed facade. With twists and turns that keep readers guessing until the very end, the book explores themes of obsession, betrayal, and the secrets that lie hidden beneath the surface of seemingly ordinary lives.


The story begins with Millie desperate to find a job after losing her previous one. She gets a call from Douglas Garrick, the CEO of Coinstock, who hires her to help his wife, Wendy, who has a health condition.

As Millie starts working for the Garricks, she notices peculiar and troubling signs. Wendy spends most of her time locked in a guest bedroom, and Millie often hears crying and sounds of conflict when Douglas checks on her. One day, Millie sees blood in the bathroom and, upon threatening to call the police, Wendy reveals her bruised face, confirming Millie’s suspicion of abuse.

Millie has a history of helping battered women escape their abusers, a mission she embarked on after serving time for accidentally killing a man who tried to assault her friend. She collaborates with her then-boyfriend, Enzo Accardi, who has connections to help these women. 

Millie advises Wendy to find a friend Douglas doesn’t know about and arrange to stay with them. Wendy agrees and asks Millie to drive her to Albany, where she rents a motel room for Wendy.

A few days later, Millie learns that Douglas found Wendy and brought her back. Wendy, feeling trapped, shows Millie a gun she found in Douglas’s study and asks for shooting lessons. 

Millie refuses but changes her mind when she witnesses Douglas attempting to strangle Wendy. In a desperate act to save her, Millie shoots Douglas.

Wendy tells Millie to leave, promising to call the police and report Douglas’s body. The next morning, police visit Millie, and she calls her boyfriend, Brock Cunningham, for legal help, revealing her past to him. 

The detective suggests that Millie was having an affair with Douglas and killed him in a fit of rage. Brock leaves the interview in frustration, but the police lack sufficient evidence to arrest Millie.

Later, Millie realizes the man she shot was not Douglas Garrick. 

Wendy had manipulated Millie into believing Douglas was abusive, using her lover, Russell Simonds, to impersonate Douglas. W

endy seduced Douglas, married him, and signed a prenup that limited her divorce settlement to $10 million unless she committed infidelity. After Douglas discovered her affair with Russell, he cut her off financially. Wendy plotted his death, convincing Millie to shoot Russell with a blank-loaded gun. 

After Millie left, Wendy had planned for Russell to kill Douglas, but when Russell hesitated, Wendy did it herself.

Millie, recalling her encounter with Enzo in Albany, contacts him to establish her alibi and investigate the man she shot. 

They identify him as Russell and discover his cabin. Concurrently, police footage reveals Wendy and Russell entering and exiting the apartment on the day of the murder, along with Douglas’s later arrival.

Millie informs Russell’s wife, Marybeth, about the affair and gives her a bottle of digoxin, a heart medication. 

Marybeth confronts Russell at his cabin, kills him, and coerces Wendy into writing a suicide note. Marybeth then spikes Wendy’s wine with digoxin, leading to Wendy’s fatal heart arrhythmia, creating a murder-suicide scene. 

The police, convinced by the evidence and Wendy’s note, close the case.

In the end, Millie is cleared of suspicion and resumes her life, moving in with Enzo three months later.

The Housemaid's Secret Summary


Millie Calloway

Millie Calloway, the protagonist of “The Housemaid’s Secret,” is a complex character shaped by a troubled past. 

A convicted felon, Millie carries the weight of a previous incarceration for accidentally killing a man who attempted to sexually assault her friend. This traumatic experience has fostered in her a deep-seated commitment to helping other women escape abusive relationships

Despite her criminal record, Millie is resilient and resourceful, securing a job with Douglas Garrick to make ends meet. Her keen observations and empathetic nature lead her to suspect and eventually confirm Wendy Garrick’s abuse. Millie’s background in aiding battered women provides her with the skills and determination to assist Wendy, showcasing her bravery and moral conviction. 

However, her involvement in the Garricks’ lives takes a perilous turn when she becomes entangled in Wendy’s deceptive plot, revealing Millie’s vulnerability to manipulation and her unwavering drive to protect others, even at great personal risk.

Wendy Garrick

Wendy Garrick is a multifaceted antagonist whose actions drive much of the novel’s conflict. Initially presented as a victim of domestic abuse, Wendy skillfully manipulates Millie and the reader into believing her plight. 

Her character is later revealed to be cunning and calculating, having orchestrated a complex scheme to murder her husband, Douglas, and frame Millie. Wendy’s background includes a strategic marriage to Douglas Garrick, motivated by financial security, which is complicated by a prenuptial agreement limiting her settlement in the case of infidelity. 

When Douglas discovers her affair with Russell Simonds, Wendy’s desperation to maintain her lavish lifestyle propels her to hatch a lethal plan. 

Her ability to deceive Millie and orchestrate the murder plot highlights her intelligence and ruthlessness, making her a formidable character driven by greed and survival.

Douglas Garrick

Douglas Garrick, the wealthy CEO of Coinstock, is initially perceived through Millie’s eyes as a potential abuser. 

However, his character is more complex than it first appears. 

Douglas is a successful businessman who, despite his wealth and power, is entangled in a toxic marriage with Wendy. His decision to hire Millie to help with Wendy’s supposed health condition indicates a measure of concern, yet his interactions with Wendy and Millie suggest a man overwhelmed by his circumstances. 

Douglas’s discovery of Wendy’s affair and subsequent actions to financially cut her off reveal his firm stance on infidelity and control over his assets. 

Ultimately, Douglas is a tragic figure, victimized by Wendy’s manipulation and deceit, culminating in his murder, which underscores his vulnerability despite his outwardly powerful persona.

Russell Simonds

Russell Simonds plays a crucial role as Wendy’s lover and an unwilling participant in her deadly plot. 

As a furniture salesman and the husband of Douglas’s secretary, Russell becomes entangled in an affair with Wendy that leads to catastrophic consequences. His character is depicted as morally compromised yet hesitant, lacking the resolve to follow through with Wendy’s murderous plans. 

Russell’s reluctance to shoot Douglas and his compliance in pretending to be Douglas highlight his susceptibility to Wendy’s influence and his weakness in critical moments. 

His eventual death, orchestrated by Wendy and executed by his wife Marybeth, paints Russell as both a victim and a collaborator in the tragic events, emphasizing his flawed and tragic nature.

Enzo Accardi

Enzo Accardi is Millie’s ex-boyfriend and a significant ally in her quest to help abused women. His connections and willingness to assist Millie underscore his loyalty and shared commitment to their cause. 

Enzo’s reappearance in Millie’s life provides her with an essential support system, particularly when she needs an alibi and assistance in uncovering the truth behind Wendy’s plot. 

His character represents a figure of reliability and resourcefulness, aiding Millie in navigating the dangerous situations she encounters. 

Enzo’s involvement highlights his enduring affection for Millie and his integral role in her pursuit of justice.

Brock Cunningham

Brock Cunningham, Millie’s boyfriend and lawyer, embodies the conflict between personal and professional life. His initial support for Millie is tested when her past and the evidence against her are revealed. 

Brock’s departure from the police interview reflects his shock and inability to reconcile Millie’s past with the present accusations. His character illustrates the challenges of trust and loyalty in relationships, particularly when faced with unexpected and distressing revelations. 

Brock’s reaction adds depth to the narrative, highlighting the impact of Millie’s tumultuous past on her current relationships and her struggle to prove her innocence.

Marybeth Simonds

Marybeth Simonds, Russell’s wife, emerges as a pivotal character in the resolution of the plot. Her discovery of Russell’s infidelity and her subsequent actions showcase a transformation from a betrayed wife to an avenger. 

Marybeth’s decision to kill Russell and force Wendy to write a suicide note demonstrates her decisive and vengeful nature. Her involvement in framing the scene as a murder-suicide effectively closes the case on Douglas’s murder, underscoring her intelligence and ruthlessness. 

Marybeth’s character arc from victim to avenger adds a layer of complexity to the story, emphasizing themes of betrayal, retribution, and justice.


Deception and Manipulation

In “The Housemaid’s Secret,” deception and manipulation are central themes that drive the narrative forward. Wendy Garrick epitomizes these themes as she orchestrates an elaborate scheme to escape her marriage while securing her financial future. 

Wendy’s calculated moves, from seducing Douglas Garrick to plotting his murder, showcase her manipulative prowess. 

She deceives Millie into believing that she is a victim of domestic abuse, exploiting Millie’s empathy and history of helping abused women. Wendy’s manipulation extends to convincing Millie to shoot Russell Simonds, who is disguised as Douglas, thereby setting the stage for her ultimate plan. 

This theme underscores the lengths individuals might go to achieve their goals, revealing the dark underbelly of human behavior where deceit and manipulation become tools for survival and gain.

The Complexity of Morality

The novel delves deeply into the complexity of morality, presenting characters whose actions challenge conventional notions of right and wrong. 

Millie Calloway, the protagonist, embodies this theme as she navigates a morally ambiguous landscape. Despite her criminal record, Millie is portrayed as someone driven by a strong moral compass, determined to help women escape abusive situations. Her past crime, which involved killing a man to protect her friend, adds layers to her moral complexity. 

Similarly, Wendy’s actions blur moral boundaries. While her manipulations and ultimate act of murder are unquestionably immoral, her motives stem from a desire to escape an oppressive marriage and secure her future. 

The novel forces readers to grapple with these moral ambiguities, questioning whether ends justify means and exploring the gray areas of ethical decision-making.

The Power Dynamics in Relationships

“The Housemaid’s Secret” intricately examines power dynamics within personal relationships, particularly focusing on the dynamics between abuser and victim, manipulator and manipulated. 

The relationship between Douglas and Wendy Garrick initially appears to be one of control and subjugation, with Douglas seemingly exerting power over Wendy through abuse. 

However, as the plot unfolds, it becomes evident that Wendy is not merely a passive victim but an active manipulator seeking to overturn the power imbalance in her favor. 

Millie’s interactions with the Garricks also highlight power dynamics. Initially powerless due to her socio-economic status and criminal background, Millie finds herself caught in Wendy’s web of manipulation, which shifts the power balance. 

The novel also touches on the dynamics between Millie and her boyfriend, Brock Cunningham, where her past and his professional ethics create a complex interplay of power and trust. 

Through these relationships, the novel explores how power is negotiated, challenged, and redefined in personal interactions.