front book cover of The Housemaid by Freida McFaddenSee how the New York Times and USA Today bestseller The Housemaid by Freida McFadden hits the Save the Cat! story beats!

Author: Freida McFadden
Publisher: Bookouture, copyright 2022
Pages: 325
Genre: Dude with a Problem + Fool Triumphant

Real-life physician and internationally bestselling author Freida McFadden has topped the Amazon Charts, Wall Street Journal, New York Times bestseller lists—and more—for weeks or months with her novels. The Housemaid was her breakout sensation, the first book in an extremely popular trilogy (Book 2 came out last year and Book 3 will be released this June), and Lionsgate has already snapped up film rights to the first novel.

I’d heard the book was “unputdownable,” but I didn’t believe it until I read it for myself. I have to admit, while The Housemaid had some seriously creepy and disturbing elements, it was definitely compelling. I finished it over the course of one weekend, and certain scenes have been on my mind ever since.

From the publisher:

“Welcome to the family,” Nina Winchester says as I shake her elegant, manicured hand. I smile politely, gazing around the marble hallway. Working here is my last chance to start fresh. I can pretend to be whoever I like. But I’ll soon learn that the Winchesters’ secrets are far more dangerous than my own…

Every day I clean the Winchesters’ beautiful house top to bottom. I collect their daughter from school. And I cook a delicious meal for the whole family before heading up to eat alone in my tiny room on the top floor.

I try to ignore how Nina makes a mess just to watch me clean it up. How she tells strange lies about her own daughter. And how her husband Andrew seems more broken every day. But as I look into Andrew’s handsome brown eyes, so full of pain, it’s hard not to imagine what it would be like to live Nina’s life. The walk-in closet, the fancy car, the perfect husband.

I only try on one of Nina’s pristine white dresses once. Just to see what it’s like. But she soon finds out… and by the time I realize my attic bedroom door only locks from the outside, it’s far too late.

But I reassure myself: the Winchesters don’t know who I really am.

They don’t know what I’m capable of…

An unbelievably twisty read that will have you glued to the pages late into the night. Anyone who loves The Woman in the Window, The Wife Between Us and The Girl on the Train won’t be able to put this down!

Here’s my take on Blake Snyder’s beats for this fast-paced psychological thriller:

Opening Image (pp. 1-2): Prologue – The cops are questioning one of the characters (we don’t know who at this point) about a dead body in the attic.

Set-Up (pp. 3-27): Three months earlier, Millie had a job interview with a wealthy woman named Nina Winchester. Until then, Millie had been kicked out of her apartment and was living in her car. She was estranged from her parents and subsisting on sandwiches. Readers learn she’d spent the past decade in jail, but we don’t yet know why. With a criminal record, it’s difficult for her to get a job, and she was recently fired from her last one.

Nina is considering her for this coveted position as their housekeeper and part-time nanny to their 9-year-old daughter in their ritzy, gated Long Island home. Despite the small attic room that the housekeeper will live in, Millie crosses her fingers and hopes for the best. It would definitely be an improvement over living in her car. She prays Nina won’t do a thorough background check.

Millie also meets the Italian-speaking landscaper, Enzo, who seems to be wary of Nina, as well as Nina’s rich and handsome husband, Andrew.

Catalyst (p. 16): Surprisingly, Nina offers Millie the job. She can’t believe her luck!

Theme Stated (p. 19): Enzo says the words “You… pericolo.” Millie doesn’t know that Italian word. She eventually looks up the translation to discover that it means “danger.”

Debate (pp. 28-39): Does she want to keep working here? Millie can’t help but notice some strange things are afoot in this wealthy household. She can’t shake the feeling that, perhaps, she should get out while she can.

Break into Two (pp. 40-42): Nina comes across as moody and odd, but Millie desperately needs this job and decides to stay.

B Story (pp. 45-46): Millie finds herself attracted to two very different but extremely handsome men: Enzo the hot Italian landscaper and Andrew the super rich and charming husband.

Fun and Games (pp. 40-138): She begins to fully experience a life of craziness at the Winchesters’ house. There’s gaslighting and truly erratic behavior by Nina. There is rudeness and all kinds of oddities in dealing with the daughter, Cecelia. There are snobby PTA moms, who reveal that Nina was once in a mental institution. There are also fights between Nina and Andrew, and a burgeoning flirtation between Millie and Andrew, which leads to them attending a Broadway play together when Nina is out of town for the night.

Midpoint (p. 139): In the cab after the play and dinner, Andrew kisses Millie, which leads to them sleeping together (Sex at 60) in a fancy hotel.

Bad Guys Close In (pp. 140-268): Nina returns home from dropping Cecelia at summer camp and she seems to know that something has been going on between the housekeeper and her husband. She brings up Millie’s big secret—that she’d been in prison—and it’s clear she’s aware that Millie and Andrew spent the night together.

Andrew tells his wife that he no longer loves her and kicks her out of the house. Millie is ecstatic to be the chosen one… at least for a little while. Andrew is attentive and affectionate, until he locks Millie in her attic room and won’t let her out.

And then, in a Gone Girl-like plot twist (SPOILER ALERT HERE!) readers are switched into Nina’s point of view, and it quickly becomes clear that it’s not Andrew who’s the injured party with a psycho wife. Instead, Andrew Winchester is Nina’s evil, sadistic husband. A man who’d drugged her and frequently locked her in the attic to torture her during their nine-year marriage. She’s been trying for years to escape him, most recently with the help of the kind landscaper Enzo. But Nina hasn’t succeeded until now. She finally found a replacement for herself in Millie, a pretty woman who’s Andrew’s type and someone Nina knows he won’t be able to resist.

After Andrew kicks her out, she’s joyous. She and Enzo meet at the hotel where she’s staying and they make love. Nina plans to collect her daughter and move away at once, but Enzo wants to tell Millie the truth—that she’s in grave danger. Nina just wants to cut her losses and leave.

All Is Lost (pp. 269-278): Back to Millie’s point of view. To her utter shock, Andrew has not only locked her in the attic, he’s invented a torturous activity that fits her “crime,” as he sees it. (She’d neglected to put a few books away that she’d been reading downstairs.) Millie realizes that she’d inadvertently fallen in love with a monster.

Dark Night of the Soul (pp. 278-281): In great pain, she completes his punishment and, finally, he unlocks the door. Millie, however, is sadly aware that this sick, insane behavior of his won’t stop. She needs to put an end to it.

Break into Three (p. 281): Millie is different from Nina. Millie has a history of fighting back when people hurt her or those she cares about, and she chooses to fight now. When Andrew opens the door, she pepper sprays him and locks him in the attic.

Finale (pp. 282-322): From the very beginning, Nina was well aware that Millie wasn’t weak. Her young housekeeper had gone to prison for murder, after all, and when she was a teenager, no less. Millie had witnessed a guy who was raping one of her friends and she killed him. Nina’s hope when she hired Millie was that the younger woman would kill Andrew, too.

In an unexpected way, the two women have joined forces (Gathering the Team). Nina had purposely left that pepper spray in the attic for Millie to find and, earlier, she’d given her a key to the room, which enabled Millie to lock Andrew in it. Millie sets about devising some torturous punishments of her own for this madman.

Enzo, another member of the “team,” tells Nina once again that they must help Millie, so Nina reluctantly returns to the house… only to find that her husband is dead in the attic, with missing teeth and strange bruises on his body. He’d also been left without drinking water for several days. Nina, recognizing her culpability in the situation, tells Millie to leave the house at once and that she’ll cover for her.

One of the cops investigating Andrew’s death, however, reveals that Andrew was the former fiancé of his daughter—a relationship that ended just before Nina came on the scene. The cop, who’d been very suspicious of Andrew Winchester and his well-connected parents, remains worried about his daughter and the “tough breakup” she’d endured, which has continued to affect her for a decade.

The cop studies the collection of evidence that clearly indicated some foul play, but he decides instead that the attic was “a hazard,” and that Andrew must have “accidentally” locked himself in it and died of dehydration as a result. Nina realizes that she and Millie have, in fact, gotten away with murder when Andrew’s own mother says at the wake that she knew about her son’s condition at the time of his death and, essentially, that he deserved the punishments he’d gotten. It turns out that Andrew learned all about such torturous lessons in childhood at the hands of his mom.

Final Image (pp. 323-325): Epilogue – Millie is in the process of interviewing for another job with plans to meet up with Enzo afterward. (Nina has moved far away with her daughter, but she told Enzo to look out for Millie.) Millie was recommended to this new lady by Nina herself, and Millie soon discovers why. The new woman looks like another abused wife in need of assistance, and she asks if Millie would be willing “to help.” Millie says that, yes, she would.