51 pages 1 hour read

Clémence Michallon

The Quiet Tenant

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2023

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Summary and Study Guide


The Quiet Tenant is the second novel and first English-language work of fiction by career journalist Clémence Michallon. Best categorized as a contemporary thriller, the novel depicts one woman’s desperate attempts to escape the clutches of a serial killer named Aidan, who has imprisoned and abused her for five years and killed many other women as well, unbeknownst to his daughter. In an innovative move, the author has chosen to deprive the killer himself of the ability to narrate any of the events; instead, the story is told through the voices of the women who find themselves within his destructive radius.  

It is important to note that the author shifts perspective strategically throughout the novel. The chapters featuring the killer’s unsuspecting daughter (Cecilia) and the woman he is dating (Emily) are written in the first person, as are those interludes written in the voices of Aidan’s previous victims, whose chapter headings indicate the numbered order in which they were killed. The third woman, “Rachel,” is also referred to as “the woman” in her chapter headings, and her chapters are often written in the second person. “Rachel” is the name that Aidan insists on giving to “the woman,” but it is later revealed that her real name is May Mitchell. May is referred to as “Rachel” in quotation marks throughout this guide, in order to preserve clarity for the reader while emphasizing that “Rachel” is not the character’s true name.

Author Clémence Michallon was born and raised outside of Paris and educated in journalism at City University of London. She then earned her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and permanently moved to New York in 2014. Since 2018, she has been covering true crime, literature, and celebrity news for

The Independent. The Quiet Tenant was released on June 20, 2023, and became an immediate national bestseller, appearing on numerous “best books of the summer” lists, including those released by The Washington Post, Vogue, The New York Post, and others. The novel has also received accolades from many of Michallon’s contemporaries in the thriller, suspense, and horror genres, including Paul Tremblay, Alafair Burke, and Brad Thor. In June of 2023, Blumhouse Productions acquired the rights to adapt The Quiet Tenant for the screen.

This guide refers to the 2023 Knopf hardcover edition of the text.

Content Warning: The Quiet Tenant is centered around the behaviors and crimes of a serial sexual sadist and murderer, and includes depictions of captivity, assault (sexual and otherwise), torture, manipulation, social isolation and sensory deprivation, murder, and stalking. The novel also includes references deaths of family members, post-traumatic stress, familial instability, and the accidental injury of an animal that survives the incident.

Plot Summary

Aidan Thomas is a widower, father, veteran, and valued member of the small upstate New York community where he lives with his family. Unbeknownst to everyone around him, he has been successfully stalking, sexually abusing, and killing women for decades. There is only one woman alive who has lived to witness the full extent of his sadistic impulses, and when The Quiet Tenant opens, she has been surviving in captivity in a shed on his property for the past five years.

When Aidan’s wife dies after her five-year battle with cancer, he and his daughter, Cecilia, are evicted from their home and forced to move into a rental house. Instead of killing the woman that he has been holding captive for years, Aidan decides to bring her into his own household and present her as an acquaintance in need of a place to stay. He insists that she call herself “Rachel,” using the threat of violence to force her to abide by strict rules of behavior and uphold his ruse in front of Cecilia at all times. Whenever she is not spending supervised time with Aidan and his daughter, she is chained to a radiator in her locked bedroom. Aidan’s chief rule is that Cecilia must never know who “Rachel” is or why she is really in their house.

While Cecilia struggles to cope with the loss of her mother and “Rachel” tries to adapt to life inside the house while awaiting the perfect moment to escape, Aidan begins a flirtation with a local restaurant owner and bartender named Emily, who, like everyone else, is oblivious to Aidan’s true nature. One night, when Emily shows up to Aidan’s house unannounced, “Rachel” uses the distraction as an opportunity to escape with Cecilia in tow. Aidan brutally beats Rachel to punish her for her disobedience and stops texting Emily, focusing instead on maintaining control over the goings-on in his house. Obsessed and undeterred, Emily finds another reason to enter Aiden’s house unannounced. Discovering “Rachel” in the home, Emily becomes convinced that she is not Aidan’s cousin, as she claims to be, but is instead a rival for Aidan’s affections.

One night “Rachel” manages to secure a safety pin and unlocks the basement door, hoping to find evidence of the crimes that Aidan has confessed to committing. She discovers a gun, stacks of Polaroids featuring a variety of women, and articles of clothing and personal effects. Later, on the night of a Christmas party that Emily insists on holding in Aidan’s yard, “Rachel” acquires the gun, pockets the Polaroids, and forces Cecilia into Aidan’s truck at gunpoint. Emily and Aidan pursue her. First, they follow in Emily’s vehicle, and when “Rachel” crashes the truck, Aidan pursues her on foot. Finally, “Rachel” and the terrified and confused Cecilia reach the local police station, where “Rachel” is finally able to utter her real name, May Mitchell, and present the evidence proving that Aidan Thomas has killed a total of nine women, and that Emily was likely his next intended victim.

May/“Rachel” returns home to her family in New York City, while Cecilia and her rescued dog go to live with Cecilia’s grandparents. Emily accepts an offer to sell her parents’ restaurant and also relocates to Manhattan. At the conclusion of the novel, while the investigation into Aidan’s crimes continues, Emily pays a visit to May/“Rachel,” the only other woman who survived Aidan’s murderous activities. May/“Rachel” agrees to speak with Emily, acknowledging that unlike the detectives, special agents, reporters, and curiosity-seekers who are eager to learn what it was like to escape the clutches of Aidan Thomas, only Emily and Cecilia can have any true understanding of the ordeal that she experienced.