The Husband's Secret Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Husband's Secret

Cecilia finds a letter that her husband wrote and wanted her to read in the event that he died. Although he is still alive, Cecilia is tempted to sink her teeth into it anyway, unaware of the possible consequences his words could have for their lives.
Click here to see the rest of this review

There are three women whose stories are linked by the secret in the letter: Cecilia, Tess, and Rachel.

Cecilia, mother of three who describes herself as a 'school mum and part-time Tupperware consultant', is sitting at the kitchen table with the unopened letter in front of her, wondering if she should read it. She finds herself blaming the Berlin Wall for the discovery of the letter. It was thanks to her daughter, Esther, speaking about the Berlin Wall at breakfast that morning and Cecilia remarking that she actually has a piece of the Wall from her travels when she was younger, that made her search for it and find the letter hidden in the attic.

Tess, mother of a young boy called Liam, has just discovered that her husband (Will) and cousin (Felicity) have feelings for each other and want to be together. Tess is absolutely horrified when they tell her and further suggest that Felicity moves into their home to help Liam deal with the changes to his family life. Tess decides that she and Liam must leave immediately to have a break from the messy situation. They go stay with Tess's mother in Sydney who recently broke her ankle and could do with the help around the house.

We first meet Rachel when she is being told the wonderful news that her son, Rob, will be moving to New York with his wife and son. Rachel is upset that they are going away, however, because she is close to her grandson. Making the situation more difficult for her is how she is living in the shadow of a tragedy that struck her family in 1984 when her daughter was murdered.   

Cecilia approaches John-Paul about having found the letter in the attic and he tells her he doesn't want her to read it. He is vague about why, making Cecilia worry that it has something to do with an affair. This is exacerbated by the fact that they have not had much of a physical relationship lately. She tells him she will respect his wishes.

The characters' lives start to intersect when Tess and her mother bump into Tess's old school acquaintance, Cecilia. Tess is about to enrol Liam in the same school Cecilia's daughter Polly attends. Rachel works at the school as a secretary.

After Rachel meets Liam for the first time, Connor Whitby enters the office. He works as the PE teacher and the very sight of him makes her feel anger. She remembers from the time when Janie was found dead that a sergeant working on the case claimed Connor was lying about something. She is convinced Connor killed Janie.

Rachel thinks about Janie's last day and how she was supposed to take Janie to the doctor because her daughter was complaining of feeling tired all the time. However, Rachel had been a few minutes late and Janie never arrived. The police later told her that Janie had gone to Connor Whitby's house after which he walked her to the railway station. No one had seen her alive since. Rachel now finds an old recording of Janie and Connor speaking on camera, playing around and having a bit of an argument. Rachel is inspired by the footage and decides that it could be new evidence.

Cecilia and John-Paul have great sex upon his return home and afterwards Cecilia thinks about how happy the children were to see their father. She believes everything is fine until she wakes up in the middle of the night upon hearing sounds in the attic and realizes that John-Paul is desperate to get the letter! She has left it in their office, however, and so she gets up, retrieves the letter and decides to read it.

The letter is a confession. John-Paul admits that he killed Janie Crowley.

Cecily confronts John-Paul and he tells her excruciating details of how he killed Janie. He had loved Janie to the point of obsession and they had been dating. When she asked to speak with him in the park one evening, he had been expecting her to tell him that they could take their relationship to the next level. Instead, Janie told him she was in love with another boy. He choked her to death and placed his mother's rosary beads in her hands, then he fled the scene. John-Paul asks Cecilia if she can still be with him after this revelation. Their conversation is interrupted by Polly, and Cecilia feels she has to say yes for the sake of the children.

Cecilia bumps into Rachel and Tess at the school and is so affected by seeing Rachel after John-Paul's confession that she falls sick. Tess offers to take her home, returning to the school later to fetch Polly's shoes for her. There she meets Connor. They flirt as they do whenever they see each other and she agrees to go on a date with him.

Cecilia's mother-in-law arrives for a visit and Cecilia can't help but bring up the topic of Janie's murder. During the conversation, it becomes clear that Virginia knows about what John-Paul did and she tells Cecilia that bringing him to justice wouldn't do anything to help the situation, nor bring Janie back to life. In spite of her agreement of this, Cecilia starts giving John-Paul the cold shoulder when they interact at home and confronts him about how his mother knows the truth of what he did. She accuses him of being a golden child who literally got away with murder.

Tess and Connor have a great date and end up having sex later that night. She confides in him about her marriage problems with Will and Felicity wanting to be together, and he tells her that he was a suspect in Janie Crowley's murder but that he is innocent. He fears that this has put her off being with him, but she says that it hasn't.

Cecilia goes over to Rachel's house to give her a Tupperware delivery she wanted. During a cup of tea, Rachel confides in her that she might be closer to clinching Janie's killer (referring to the videotape). It shocks Cecilia so much that she burns herself with the tea. Cecilia later tells John-Paul about it, but he claims there wouldn't be any new evidence in the case. If there was, however, he says he would turn himself in to the police. Later, Rachel is told by the police that the videotape offers no definite signs that Connor killed her daughter.

Meanwhile, Tess is trying to forget about Will as she plunges into an affair with Connor. He invites Tess and Liam out to fly a kite and she accepts, even though her mother says that it is inappropriate to let Connor and Liam interact. When they hear the doorbell, they are shocked to find Felicity on their doorstep.

Felicity tells Tess that although she was in love with Will, when Tess and Liam left Melbourne his feelings towards Felicity cooled. In spite of this, Tess tells her cousin that she doesn't forgive her. Then she remembers she and Liam were supposed to meet Connor and they had completely forgotten about him!

John-Paul, Cecilia and their daughters go for bike rides during which Polly starts cycling faster because she spots Connor Whitby, her teacher, in the distance. While this is happening, Rachel is driving home, her thoughts clouded by distractions around her, such as that of Connor holding a kite. Upon seeing him, she lifts her foot off the accelerator, her car moving faster in his direction. However, instead of hitting Connor, she drives over little Polly on her bicycle.

Polly survives the accident but needs to have her arm amputated. Rachel is distraught at what she has done and confesses that she was trying to kill Connor, whom she thinks killed Janie. Cecilia tells Rachel it wasn't Connor but her husband who murdered her. John-Paul confesses to Rachel but Rachel says that she won't press charges which would take John-Paul away from his daughters, especially since poor little Polly needs her family's support during the trauma she is facing. Cecilia feels that what has happened to Polly has punished John-Paul for what he did.

Will goes to see Tess and she decides to give their marriage one more chance. She tells him that they have a few months, until Christmas, to try to make things work.

The epilogue of the book features some secrets the characters would never know. An example is that the real reason why Janie had been suffering from tiredness was due to a serious medical condition and that she died of an aortic aneurysm - not from asphyxiation as it was believed.
Best part of story, including ending: I liked how the characters' lives were linked together. It was excellently written and there were many twists and turns.

Best scene in story: The best scene was that of Polly's accident. All the characters are in the same place at the same time. Polly is cycling closer to Connor, without anyone expecting Rachel to crash into Polly with her car. Rachel's pent-up revenge towards Connor for the alleged murdering of her daughter has led her to a completely different and disastrous fate, that of severely injuring a young girl. It's a powerful scene and definitely the climax of the book.

Opinion about the main character: Cecily is a thoughtful and interesting character. She sees the letter written by her husband and battles with the moral issue of reading it. Eventually, she does and discovers that he is a murderer. Her drive and strong value system, as noticed when she was eager to discover the truth he has been hiding, become a bit watered down towards the end of the book when she decides to stay with him in spite of his actions. This reveals the many facets to her character, which makes for an interesting read.

The review of this Book prepared by Giulia Simolo a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

Chapter Analysis of The Husband's Secret

Click on a plot link to find similar books!

Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   thoughtful Time/era of story    -   2000+ (Present Day) Romance/Romance Problems    -   Yes Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Married, fooling around?    -   Yes Married Love Triangle?    -   One Man Two Women

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Australian (mate!)


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   3 () City?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

Books with storylines, themes & endings like The Husband's Secret

Liane Moriarty Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
2 Ways to Search!

Our Chief Librarian