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Read a full summary of The Final Gambit, book #3 in Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s The Inheritance Games series. This page is full of spoilers, so beware. If you are wondering what happened in The Final Gambit, then you are in the right place!

Special thanks to Susan Jensen for providing this recap! Visit her blog, blogginboutbooks.com to check out what she’s reading and see what’s on her mind. Follow Susan on Goodreads and Facebook!

Jennifer Lynn Barnes

4.6 stars on Amazon
4.16 stars on Goodreads
Add The Final Gambit at Goodreads.

The Inheritance Games Recaps
#1 The Inheritance Games
#2 The Hawthorne Legacy
#3 The Final Gambit
#4 The Brothers Hawthorne (synopsis)
#5 Games Untold (synopsis)

***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****

What happened in The Final Gambit?

When The Final Gambit opens, Avery Grambs is fast approaching her 18th birthday, and there are only six weeks left until her one year of living at Hawthorne House is up. When she completes the required year, she will inherit Tobias Hawthorne’s massive fortune. Grayson Hawthorne is away, studying at Harvard. Jameson Hawthorne is in Tuscany, searching the Hawthornes’ villa for clues as to what the circular disk referred to in the last book is. Alisa Ortega—the Hawthorne family lawyer—is pressuring Avery to put the money she is about to inherit into a trust that will be handled by Alisa’s law firm.
For Avery’s birthday, Jameson surprises her by flying back to Hawthorne House. He takes her on a hot air balloon ride, then provides a hidden picnic, a helicopter ride over the Gulf, and dancing on the beach. Afterward, they return to Hawthorne House, where a surprise party is waiting for Avery and only her closest family and friends. Grayson returns from college to attend the party.

The next day, Eve Shane—Toby’s secret daughter—unexpectedly shows up at Hawthorne House. Eve is a dead ringer for Emily Laughlin, the girl whom Jameson and Grayson have been accused of killing but who actually died because of a heart condition. Avery doesn’t want Grayson to see her because she’s afraid his fragile emotional state will be worsened by seeing someone who looks exactly like the dead girl whom he loved.

Eve tells Avery that an unknown person has taken Toby. She had been living with him off the grid for months when he insisted they split up for her safety. They were supposed to meet. When Eve showed up at the meeting place, she was hit over the head by someone she didn’t see. Her assailant searched her pockets and told her to forget about Toby Hawthorne—or else. Toby had told Eve if anything happened to him, she should find Avery at Hawthorne House. Later, Avery, Jameson, and Grayson discuss whether or not they can believe Eve’s story. Is she trustworthy, or is she playing them? They deduce that if someone searched Eve’s pockets, they were probably looking for the disk.

In the middle of the night, an envelope addressed to Avery is delivered to Hawthorne House. When she opens it, she finds a small gold disk and a sheet of paper on which is written a Tobias Hawthorne-like puzzle. When solved, it says: Avenge. Revenge. Vengeance. Avenger. Although the note is not signed, Avery and her friends assume it is from Toby’s captor. They figure it means someone wants revenge for the fire Toby once started on Hawthorne Island that killed three people. The victims were from three powerful families: the Rooneys (Avery’s mom’s family), the Graysons (Grayson’s father’s family), and the Goldings. Avery believes the Rooneys could not have Toby, so the group decides to look into the other two families.

Avery receives another courier-delivered envelope. It contains a photograph of a beat-up Toby holding a current newspaper. Avery and the Hawthorne brothers find a hidden message in the newspaper in the photo. It says: I always win in the end.

Avery sees Grayson swimming in the pool in the middle of the night. Eve is with him. She tells Jameson that she’s worried Grayson is getting too involved with Eve, whom she’s still not sure they can trust. Jameson thinks Avery is jealous because he believes she might be in love with Grayson, even though Avery swears she’s in love with Jameson.

Alisa comes to Hawthorne House to inform Avery that an unknown person is waging a smear campaign against Avery. Oren had previously warned her that members of her security team were being lured away with more lucrative offers. It’s clear someone who is both wealthy and powerful is targeting Avery. She assumes it’s the same person who is holding Toby captive.

Alisa gives Avery a satchel that Tobias Hawthorne instructed her to give Avery in the event that Eve Shane showed up at Hawthorne House. This proves that Tobias knew about Eve, Toby’s secret daughter. Six items are inside the bag: a handheld steamer, a flashlight, a beach towel, a bag full of magnetic letters, a USB drive, and a circular piece of blue-green glass. When Avery opens the only file on the USB drive, she hears a blast of sound that seems to be random white noise. Avery focuses on the letters. When unscrambled, they make P-QB4, a notation referring to The Queen’s Gambit, a common opening move in chess that involves purposely sacrificing a pawn to take control of the board.

The chess clue leads Avery to Hawthorne House’s game room, where a diamond-encrusted chess set worth half a million dollars is kept. Using a jeweler’s loupe, Avery spies a hidden seam in the bottom of the black queen. Inside is a note that reads: Don’t breathe.

A couple of days later, Avery receives a package while at school. It contains a small box secured with a combination lock. Inside is a cell phone with a timer that is counting down from 12 hours, 45 minutes, and 11 seconds. On the calendar app, there is a mysterious notation: niv. There is one listing in the phone’s Contacts list under the name “Call Me.” When Avery calls, an old man named “Luke” answers. He tells Avery she won’t like what happens to Toby when the timer hits zero.

At the same time, Thea Calligaris calls Avery to tell her that a photo of Eve at Hawthorne House has gone viral. Xander says the stunt is a “glitter cannon” designed to distract Avery and the brothers from figuring out who is holding Toby. Thea also identifies niv as the New International Version of the Bible. Using the numbers that opened the combination lock and the name the man on the phone gave her (Luke), Avery is led to the parable of the Prodigal Son in the Bible. When she calls “Luke” to tell him what she’s found, he tells her to ruminate on the three characters in the parable: the father, the son who left, and the son who stayed. Avery and her friends think the father must be Tobias Hawthorne. Since Tobias only had one son (Toby), they decide the other “brother” must be a brother-in-law. Unless the brothers have a secret uncle out there somewhere…

After talking to Zara Hawthorne about her first husband, Christopher, and finding out he died long ago in a boating accident, Avery and Grayson wonder if Tobias is not the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son but one of the brothers. Tobias never talked about his birth family, so they don’t know if he had siblings. Nan (Tobias’ mother-in-law) tells them Tobias had no siblings. She also infers that her son-in-law had done shameful things in order to build his legacy, although she won’t say what.

Avery and her friends go through the List Oren keeps of people who were/are possible threats to Tobias Hawthorne and his legacy. In the files, they find many ways Tobias screwed people over to get ahead. Avery is disconcerted when she discovers Eve secretly taking pictures of one of the files. She later discovers it’s a file on Sheffield Grayson (Grayson’s father).

The items from the satchel Tobias left for Avery lead her to the Hawthorne House swimming pool. Using the piece of glass, she sees that the mosaic on the bottom of the pool actually has a simpler chessboard design underneath. Using the moves from the Queen’s Gambit, Avery finds a tile that moves. Beneath it is a package that contains an old photograph of three women in front of a stone church. A note on the back says: Margeaux, France, December 19, 1973. Grayson leads Avery and Co. to the wine cellar, where they find a bottle of wine from Chateau Margaux, 1973. Using the steamer, they lift the label and find a drawing of a tear-shaped crystal. That leads them to a chandelier where they find a message: Don’t trust anyone. Another message reads fin. Avery wonders if the message means that they should not trust Eve specifically.

Eve wants to meet Mallory Laughlin, her grandmother. Eve asks her about Toby’s father. Mallory says Liam was older, attractive, and mysterious and that she was enamored of him. They snuck around together, and she got pregnant with Toby. Then, Liam abruptly left.

While at Mallory’s house, Avery gets another envelope, closed with a wax seal with a design that matches that on the disk. The message inside the envelope says: 363-1982.

Thea—whose dorm room was recently broken into—receives a phone call from “Luke,” who says he put tracking and listening devices on the phone. He tells Avery, “Look up.” She does and sees certificates on the wall of Tobias Hawthorne’s offices for patents developed by him and his grandsons. The numbers 363-1982 refer to a patent for a mechanism for oil drilling equipment with two names on it: Tobias Hawthorne and Vincent Blake. Xander looks at the design and instantly sees that it has a fatal flaw, which explains why there’s another patent certificate on the wall for a similar mechanism—minus the flaw—in Tobias’ name only. Some research and deduction reveals that Vincent Blake was once Tobias’ boss and mentor. When Tobias filed a new patent based on their shared ideas and made millions from it, Vincent had to have been furious.

After the Vincent Blake discovery, Eve runs off to confront Vincent Blake. Grayson wants to go after her, but Avery begs him not to. Jameson tricks Avery into entering a secret chamber that locks her inside. By the time Avery figures out how to escape, Eve, Grayson, and Jameson are back. They were unable to enter Vincent’s guarded compound.

Xander discovers that Isaiah Alexander (the father he has never met) once worked for Vincent Blake. He now owns his own auto mechanic shop. Avery, Xander, Rebecca, and Thea go to visit him. Isaiah says when Skye got pregnant with Xander, Isaiah didn’t have the resources to go up against Tobias Hawthorne to fight for custody. He quit working for Vincent because he noticed that people who crossed him generally ended up dead. When shown the mysterious disk, Isaiah immediately identifies it as “Mr. Blake’s calling card,” a family seal that gives anyone possessing it free reign with the Blake fortune. Each of the five coins also ensures the person an equal stake in Vincent’s very large, valuable estate. Before Toby disappeared, he stole a disk from Tobias Hawthorne, but why did Tobias have a disk that entitled him to 1⁄5 of the estate of a man who hated him? Where did he get it? Isaiah also tells them that Vincent had a son named William, who “took off” at some point and never came back.

Avery and friends realize that a nickname for William is “Liam” and that Vincent’s son disappeared forty years ago. Will Blake, they deduce, was Toby’s father. Avery also realizes that when she mentioned a poem by William Blake that Toby had written all over his walls to Eve, she recognized the name. Could Eve be working with Vincent Blake? Further, they understand that Liam was most likely murdered by someone in the Hawthorne family for seducing a teenaged Mallory in order to get back at the Hawthornes.

Avery calls Vincent Blake and tells him she knows who he is. He tells her he wants to know what really happened to his son, Liam. He wants Avery to bring him Liam’s remains. The clues in the poem Toby wrote on his walls lead Avery to the chapel at Hawthorne House. On the chapel’s altar, she discovers an inscription that leads her to a puzzle which opens the altar to reveal a hollowed-out space big enough to store a body. The area holds only an empty shroud, a USB drive, and a message in Toby’s handwriting: I know what you did, Father.

Eve confronts Avery in the chapel with a gun. She admits to helping Vincent abduct Toby in an effort to impress the wealthy man (her grandfather) into giving her a disk. Oren disarms Eve and demands that she leave the estate.

Avery and Grayson use the second USB drive to decode the message on the first. It’s an audio clip from Tobias Hawthorne. He references (vaguely) the murder of Liam Blake and the revenge Vincent Blake has been waiting to take on the family because of it. He also says that Avery was chosen as his heir because he knew that person would become a target, and he didn’t want anyone of his blood to be at risk. Tobias further explains that he believes Avery to be capable of beating anyone who opposes her. Avery is both angered and flattered by his words.

Afterward, Avery calls Vincent. She asks him what—besides Toby—he will give her if she delivers Liam’s remains to him. In response, Avery receives another package. It contains thirteen envelopes, each containing a clear piece of plastic. When stacked, they show a photograph of Alisa Ortega lying on a dirt floor, unconscious.

Using clues in the poem Toby wrote on his bedroom walls, Avery and Jameson go to the hedge maze on the grounds of Hawthorne House. They discover a secret room with Toby’s writing, but no body. Nash asks Mr. Laughlin—Hawthorne House’s long-time gardener—for help. He finally admits that Mallory and Liam fought when she informed him she was pregnant. Mallory stole Vincent’s disk from Tobias and promised to give it to Liam if he would promise not to leave, but when she looked for it in her bag, it wasn’t there. Tobias was spying on them and saw him get rough with Mallory. Mr. Laughlin arrived in time to see Mallory pick up a brick to defend herself with and bash Liam in the head, not just once but repeatedly. When they all saw Liam was dead, Tobias told Mr. Laughlin to take Mallory away. He did while Tobias buried the body. Rebecca Laughlin directs Avery and Jameson to the burial spot, and they unearth Liam’s remains.

Alisa calls Avery and tells her that Vincent has let her go—in exchange for Grayson.

How did The Final Gambit end?

Avery phones the police, letting them know that remains have been found at Hawthorne House. She also contacts her publicist and offers her an exclusive on the murder of Liam Blake at the hands of Tobias Hawthorne, figuring that since he is already deceased, she could throw him under the bus instead of Mallory.

Avery and an entourage go to Vincent’s well-guarded mansion. With the paparazzi watching, she makes a statement about the murder. She shows the disk to the men guarding Blake’s home and is let in, leaving Oren and others outside. Vincent, Eve, Grayson, and Toby are all present. Vincent is holding a shotgun. Avery tells him that if she doesn’t leave with Grayson and Toby, she’ll tell the press everything she knows about Vincent’s nefarious dealings. Vincent inquires about Sheffield Grayson, who was shot by Eve’s half-sister and whose killing was covered up by Oren. Eve has proof from the file she photographed at Hawthorne House. Unwilling to throw Oren under the bus, Avery offers to play a chess game with Vincent to free Grayson and Toby. Vincent consents to a tournament: Toby vs. Eve, Toby vs. Avery, and then Avery against Eve. If Toby wins both his matches, he’s free to go. If he loses both, he agrees to stay at Vincent’s home, publicly acknowledging that he’s Toby Blake. If Eve wins one of her matches, she gets the disk she covets; if she wins both, she gets all five existing disks, making her the sole heir to the Blake fortune. If Avery loses two games, she agrees to give Vincent a blank check that he can cash in at any time. If she wins one game, Grayson will be released. If she wins both, Vincent will also conceal the truth about Sheffield Grayson’s death.

Toby and Eve play first. He lets her win. Toby also loses to Avery. Avery loses on purpose to Eve. When Vincent dismisses Avery and Grayson, Avery offers to play a game with Vincent. If he wins, she agrees to put the Hawthorne fortune in a trust and make him the trustee. If she wins, he has to declare an armistice and leave her alone forever. Avery wins. She, Grayson, and Alisa are escorted off the property by Toby. He secretly gives Avery a small box he carved while in captivity. The box has a message carved into it: I see so much of your mother in you.

On the one-year anniversary of Avery’s stay at Hawthorne House, there is a party. On tv, a reporter announces that Avery has transferred 94% of her inheritance into a charitable trust that will be dispersed over the next five years. She also creates a foundation in her mother’s name which will offer big money to deserving people from all walks of life. Avery announces that she will keep Hawthorne House.

A year later, Avery announces on tv that she will host an annual competition that will offer a “substantial, life-changing” amount of money as a prize. “The game,” Avery says in the last line of the book, “starts right now.”

There you go! That’s what happened in The Final Gambit. We hope you enjoyed this The Final Gambit summary with spoilers.

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What should I read after The Inheritance Games series?

Here are a few suggestions for what to read after the Inheritance Games! Click for more info (paid links): Truly Devious, The List, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, The Thursday Murder Club

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