This is a summary based on my understanding of the novel. Please also note that this summary contains spoilers. You may want to read the entire book first before proceeding
Jane is the new dog walker at Thornfield Estates, and she’s quite in demand among the wealthy community. On one of her duties, she met Eddie Rochester, one of the homeowners. Handsome, rich, and a widower. He lives alone in his house, since his late wife, Bea Rochester, died from a boating accident along with her bestfriend, Blanche.
Jane is far from being rich, and quite simple, unnoticeable, even, so it was a shock when the other housewives learned that she is dating Eddie. She became friends with Emily, who used to hire her as a dog walker. From being paid hourly, she is now hanging out with them – thanks to Eddie’s money (or Bea’s money).
Eddie has been perfect, he even asked Jane to marry him. That made Jane so happy, she felt so lucky to end up with a guy like Eddie. But she didn’t expect the mess she got herself into:
Bea Rochester isn’t dead, she’s actually locked up upstairs in a secret room they called the Panic Room. Only Blanche was dead, her body has been found with a fracture on her skull. There was an investigation, and Blanche’s husband was arrested for the murder of Blanche.
Bea is being kept upstairs – Eddie brings him food, books, and lately, he has been visiting her so they could have sex. She wrote this all down on a book, which she later on placed on Eddie’s jacket – hoping Jane could see it and save her.
After talking to Tripp (Blanche’s husband) and listening to him tell her about how dangerous Eddie is, Jane went back to the house, looked for clues, and found the book Bea wrote in. She read it – and was able to open the panic room. She saved Bea, helping her escape. When Eddie arrived to stop them, Jane smashed a metal pineapple into his face, breaking some teeth. Bea and Jane kept Eddie in the panic room as the two of them talked downstairs.
Jane suggested they call the police – but Bea was so calm, and even told her its unnecessary. Bea also told Jane her version of what happened: She said Blanche invited her to the lakehouse to tell her about the affair, then Eddie arrived to kill Blanche because he’d rather see Blanche dead than reveal that he cheated. Jane didn’t believe that. Bea knows too that Jane didn’t buy her story.
What really happened: There has been a silent war between Bea and Blanche. Blanche has been seducing Eddie, when Eddie turned him down, she got so angry that she told him about what happened to Bea’s mother. Bea’s mother was found at the bottom of the stairs when only Bea was around. That was 2 weeks after her mother humiliated her during her party. Eddie confronted Bea about it, and she was dismissive, answered his question calmly then asked Eddie back why he and Blanche were talking about her mother. Eddie was taken aback, but also now aware that Bea could be really dangerous.
After what Blanche did, Bea knows that she got to do something. She invited Blanche to their lakehouse, she also invited Tripp to come over. They drank – Tripp passed out. Blanche got drunk too, while Bea pretended to be drunk herself. Tripp was left in the guest room while Bea and Blanche went to the boat – and that’s when Bea killed Blanche.
After killing Blanche, Bea went back to the lakehouse, soaking wet, and she found Eddie. who just arrived. Eddie immediately knew what she did, and he tried to reassure Bea that he understood. When Bea thought everything was fine, Eddie got a hold of her and locked her up in the panic room to protect her.
Bea didn’t realize it, she only thought about it when Jane said it: He loved you. Now she gets it. The reason why Eddie locked her up instead of getting rid of her (which could’ve been so easy) was because he is in love with her. And she is in love with him too.
As Jane insisted that they call the police and as Bea tried to stop her – the fire alarm went off. The house was on fire. Bea rushed upstairs to rescue Eddie – there was a lot of smoke that Jane blacked out and the next thing she knew, she was already in a hospital bed. The detective told her that Eddie is already dead – they didn’t find a body, but they did find some teeth. Jane simply accepted that although she is aware that she knocked some tooth out of Eddie – and they didn’t find any trace of Bea too… so they could still be alive.
Since the house already burned down she is back to being poor again. Emily offered to let her stay – it was nice being a guest, although a few days later she found herself doing some chores.
Jane got a call from Eddie’s lawyer – he left everything to her. The lot at Thornfield Estate, Bea’s company (Southern Manors) and their money. Jane cried and considered it as a gift from Eddie and Bea for keeping their secret.
She started fresh by herself. Sometimes her mind wanders and she thinks about Eddie and Bea – possibly alive and together. No other assets, but they have each other.
The End of The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins.