Bestselling and award-winning
author Lisa Unger returns with her best novel yet. Reminiscent of the classic Strangers
on a Train, Confessions on the 7:45 is a riveting psychological thriller
that begins with a chance encounter on a commuter train and shows why you
should never, ever make conversation with strangers.
Be careful who you tell your darkest secrets...
Selena Murphy is commuting home from her job in the city when the train stalls out on the tracks. She strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat, and their connection is fast and easy. The woman introduces herself as Martha and confesses that she's been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena's station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.
But days later, Selena's nanny disappears.
Soon Selena finds her once-perfect life upended. As she is pulled into the mystery of the missing nanny, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, Selena begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she'll discover.
Expertly plotted and reminiscent of the timeless classic Strangers on a Train, Confessions on the 7:45 is a stunning web of lies and deceit, and a gripping thriller about the delicate facades we create around our lives.
About the Author
Lisa Unger is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of eighteen novels, including CONFESSIONS ON THE 7:45 (Oct. 2020). With millions of readers worldwide and books published in twenty-six languages, Unger is widely regarded as a master of suspense. Her critically acclaimed books have been voted "Best of the Year" or top picks by the Today show, Good Morning America, Entertainment Weekly, Amazon, IndieBound and others. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, and Travel+Leisure. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her family.
Author Website: https://lisaunger.com/
Q: How do the ideas come to you for these bestsellers?
A: Every novel begins with a germ. A little zap of interest that starts me on an obsession for a particular topic. It could be a news story I read, or a sentence I hear or just an image that inspires me. One time it was even a piece of junk mail! Then, if that obsession connects to something larger that’s going on with me, I start to hear a voice or voices.I follow those voices, and they carry me through the narrative.
A: People have a deep and abiding desire, a need even, to understand themselves and those around them. This includes having some insight into the darkest aspects of human nature. Crime fiction is the perfect place to explore some of the big questions people have about what makes people who they are. Also, in difficult times, crime fiction provides a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end where some type of justice is delivered. Not so with the real world. So I think there is some comfort to be found even in the darkest and most suspenseful novels.
Q: There are so many twists in the story. Did you know the ending before you plotted all of the surprises?
A: When I sit down to write, I have no idea what’s going to happen, who’s going to show up or what they’re going to do day to day. And I certainly have no idea how things will end. It’s kind of a crazy way to write a book, but I’ve never done it any other way. I write for the same reason that I read, because I want to know what’s going to happen.
A: I don’t know! I’ve never wanted to be anything other than an author. Psychology has always fascinated me, so maybe being a psychiatrist or counselor.
Q: If Confessions on the 7:45 were made into a movie, which actors would you choose to play the lead roles?
A: I would cast Scarlett Johansson as Selena and Gal Gadot as Martha. The supporting cast would be important, too, and Anne Hathaway would be perfect as Geneva and I’d love to see Bradley Cooper as Graham.
A: Any of them! Currently, THE RED HUNTER and UNDER MY SKIN are under options. So fingers crossed there! If I had to choose some others, I’d pick FRAGILE or INK AND BONE. I’d love to see my fictional town The Hollows come to life on the big or small screen.
A: The characters, always. My stories always begin for me with a voice, someone with a story to tell.
A: As most of my characters are, Selena is imperfect. The pressures she experiences from the world around her are matched by those she places on herself. She is struggling, but she also knows she has reserves of strength from which to draw to overcome the obstacles she faces, some of which are catastrophic. I think we’re all stronger and braver than we believe ourselves to be, so when we’re rooting for Selena, we’re really rooting for the warrior within us all.
A: Everything in fiction is autobiographical -- and nothing is! If we’re writing from a deep and authentic place, then all of our experiences, our observations, the people we meet, the situations we observe, the conversations we have and overhear, inform our fiction. Sometimes inspiration comes from the news, from travel, from questions I have about people and the world. My fiction is always influenced by my real life but in really layered and mysterious ways.
Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger has Selena Murphy working hard to support her husband, two boys, and the nanny. She recently discovered that her husband and the nanny have been using the boys’ playroom for their own games thanks to the nanny cam. Selena ends up on the late train home one evening after work where she meets Martha. The dark night, an unmoving train, and small bottles of liquor lead to confessions. Martha confides that she is having an affair with her boss which leads Selena to tell about her husband’s extracurricular activities. Martha comments to Selena that doesn’t she just wish that their problems would take care of themselves. Not long after that night, the nanny disappears. The police zero in on Graham. Selena’s life takes a dark turn. The fun has just begun. Confessions on the 7:45 is a dark, twisty suspense novel. The story is told from multiple points-of-view. We get to see how Selena, Pearl, Martha, a retired detective, and Geneva ended up in their present circumstances. Each person has their own reason for doing what they do. There are hidden pasts, secrets, lies, and motives. Someone is messing with Selena and her life is falling apart. There are unexpected twists and surprises along the way. If you are an avid mystery or suspense reader, you will be able to figure out some of the events or surprises before they are revealed. But there is still plenty of suspense and action. I appreciated that all the loose ends are tied up. Confessions on the 7:45 is a well-plotted story. All the parts tie together into one complete story. I like how the author tied the train in to the story reminding me of the movie Strangers on a Train. Confessions on the 7:45 does contain violence, intimate relations, and foul language (fair warning). Confessions on the 7:45 is a riveting tale that will have you rapidly turning the pages as you ignore the world around you.
Please note that this excerpt contains foul language and intimate situations
It had been a mistake from the beginning and Anne certainly knew that. You don’t sleep with your boss. It’s really one of the things mothers should teach their daughters. Chew your food carefully. Look both ways before you cross the street. Don’t fuck your direct supervisor no matter how hot, rich, or charming he may happen to be. Not that Anne’s mother had taught her a single useful thing.
Anyway, here she was. Again. Taking it from behind, over the couch in her boss’s corner office with those expansive city views. The world was a field of lights spread wide around them. She tried to enjoy it. But, as was often the case, she just kind of floated above herself. She made all the right noises, though. She knew how to fake it.
“Oh my god, Anne. You’re so hot.”
He pressed himself in deep, moaning.
When he’d first come on to her, she thought he was kidding – or not thinking clearly. They’d flown together to DC to take an important client who was considering leaving the investment firm out to dinner. In the cab on the way back to the hotel -- while Hugh was on the phone with his wife, he put his hand on Anne’s leg. He wasn’t even looking at Anne when he did it, so for a moment she wondered if it was just absent-mindedness. He was like that sometimes, a little loopy. Overly affectionate, familiar. Forgetful.
His hand moved up her thigh. Anne sat very still. Like a prey animal. Hugh ended the call and she expected him to jerk his hand back.
Oh! I’m so sorry, Anne, she thought he’d say, aghast at his careless behavior.
But no. His hand moved higher.
“Am I misreading signals?” he said, voice low.
Stop. What most people would be thinking: Poor Anne! Afraid for her job, she submits to this predator.
What Anne was thinking: How can I use this to my advantage? She really had been just trying to do her job well, sort of. But it seemed that Pop was right, as he had been about so many things. If you weren’t running a game, someone was running one on you.
Had she subconsciously been putting out signals? Possibly. Yes. Maybe Pop was right about that, too. You don’t get to stop being what you are, even when you try.
They made out like prom dates in the cab, comported themselves appropriately as they walked through the lobby of the Ritz. He pressed against her at the door to her hotel room. She was glad she was wearing sexy underwear, had shaved her legs.
She’d given Hugh – with his salt and pepper hair, sinewy muscles, flat abs -- the ride of his life that night. And many nights since. He liked her on top. He was a considerate lover, always asking: Is this good? Are you okay? Confessional: Kate and I – we’ve been married a long time. We both have – appetites. She couldn’t care less about his marriage.
Anne didn’t actually believe in the things other people seemed to value so highly. Fidelity – really? Were you supposed to just want one person your whole life? Marriage. Was there ever anything more set up to fail, to disappoint, to erode? Come on. They were animals. Every last one of them rutting, feral beasts. Men. Women. All of society was held together by gossamer thin, totally arbitrary laws and mores that were always shifting and changing no matter how people clung. They were all just barely in line.
Anne neither expected nor encouraged Hugh to fall in love. In fact, she spoke very little. She listened, made all the right affirming noises. If he noticed that she had told him almost nothing about herself, it didn’t come up. But fall in love with Anne he did. And things were getting complicated.
Now, finished and holding her around the waist, Hugh was crying a little. His body weight was pinning her down. He often got emotional after they made love. She didn’t mind him most of the time. But the whole crying thing -- it was such a turn off. She pushed against him and he let her up. She tugged down her skirt, and he pulled her into an embrace.
She held him for a while, then wiped his eyes, kissed his tears away. Because she knew that’s what he wanted. She had a special gift for that, knowing what people wanted -- really wanted deep down – and giving them that thing for a while. And that was why Hugh – why anyone – fell in love. Because he loved getting the thing he wanted, even if he didn’t know what that was.
When he moved away finally, she stared at her ghostly reflection in the dark window, wiped at her smeared lipstick.
“I’m going to leave her,” Hugh said. He flung himself on one of the plush sofas. He was long and elegant; his clothes impeccable, bespoke, made from the finest fabrics. Tonight, his silk tie was loose, pressed cotton shirt was wilted, black wool suit pants still looking crisp. Garments, all garments – even just his tennis whites -- hung beautifully on his fit body.
She smiled, moved to sit beside him. He kissed her, salty and sweet.
“It’s time. I can’t do this anymore,” he went on.
This wasn’t the first time he’d said this. Last time, when she’d tried to discourage him, he’d held her wrists too hard when she tried to leave. There had been something bright and hard in his eyes – desperation. She didn’t want him to get clingy tonight. Emotional.
“Okay,” she said, running her fingers through his hair. “Yeah.”
Because that’s what he wanted to hear, needed to hear. If you didn’t give people what they wanted, they became angry. Or they pulled away. And then the game was harder or lost altogether.
“We’ll go away,” he said, tracing a finger along her jaw. Because of course they’d both lose their jobs. Hugh’s wife Kate owned and ran the investment firm, had inherited the company from her legendary father. Her brothers were on the board. They’d never liked Hugh (this was one of his favorite pillow talk tirades, how Kate’s brothers didn’t respect him). “We’ll take a long trip abroad and figure out what comes next. Clean slate for both of us. Would you like that?”
“Of course,” she said. “That would be wonderful.”
Anne liked her job; when she’d applied and interviewed, she honestly wanted to work at the firm. Numbers made a kind of sense to her, investment a kind of union of logic and magic. Client work was a bit of a game, wasn’t it – convincing people to part with their cash on the promise that you could make them more? She also respected and admired her boss – her lover’s wife -- Kate. A powerful, intelligent woman.
Maybe Anne should have thought about all of that before she submitted to Hugh’s advances. He wasn’t the power player; she’d miscalculated, or not run the numbers at all. She made mistakes like that sometimes, let the game run her. Pop thought it was a form of self-sabotage. Sometimes, sweetie, I think your heart’s not quite in it. Maybe he was right.
“Ugh,” said Hugh, pulling away, glancing at his watch. “I’m late. I have to change and meet Kate at the fundraiser.”
She rose and walked the expanse of his office, got his tux from the closet, and lay it across the back of the couch. Another stunning item, heavy and silken. She ran her fingers lovingly along the lapel. He rose, and she helped him dress, hanging his other clothes, putting them back in the closet. She did his tie. In his heart, he was a little boy. He wanted to be attended to, cared for. Maybe everyone wanted that.
“You look wonderful,” she said, kissing him. “Have fun tonight.”
He looked at her long, eyes filling again.
“Soon,” he said. “This charade can end.”
She put a gentle hand to his cheek, smiled as sweetly as she could muster and started to move from the room.
“Anne,” he said, grabbing for her hand. “I love you.”
She’d never said it back. She’d said things like “me, too” or she’d send him the heart- eyed emoji in response to a text, sometimes she just blew him a kiss. He hadn’t seemed to notice, or his pride was too enormous to ask her why she never said it, or if she loved him. But mainly, she thought it was because Hugh only saw and heard what he wanted to.
She unlaced her fingers and blew him a kiss. “Goodnight, Hugh.”
His phone rang, and he watched her as he answered.
“I’m coming, darling,” he said, averting his eyes, moving away. “Just had to finish up with a client.”
She left him, his voice following her down the hall.
In her office, she gathered her things, a strange knot in the pit of her stomach. She sensed that her luck was about to run out here. She couldn’t say why. Just a feeling that things were unsustainable – that it wasn’t going to be as easy to leave Kate as he thought, that on some level he didn’t really want to, that once things reached critical mass, she’d be out of a job. Of course, it wouldn’t be a total loss. She’d make sure of that.
There was a loneliness, a hollow feeling that took hold at the end. She wished she could call Pop, that he could talk her through. Instead her phone pinged. The message there annoyed her.
This is wrong, it said. I don’t want to do this anymore.
Just stay the course, she wrote back. It’s too late to back out now.
Funny how that worked. At the critical moment, she had to give the advice she needed herself. The student becomes the teacher. No doubt, Pop would be pleased.
Anne glanced at the phone. The little dots pulsed, then disappeared. The girl, younger, greener, would do what she was told. She always had. So far.Anne looked at her watch, imbued with a bit of energy. If she hustled, she could just make it.