Confessions On The 7:45 By Lisa Unger Review
Disclaimer: Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger is getting strong comparisons to Strangers On a Train by Patricia Highsmith. To be clear Confessions on the 7:45 is NOT a retelling of any sort. It is a completely original creation by Lisa Unger. This disclaimer is only what, as many (or few) who are regulars to my site, know me to do, for my benefit. When a new book has strong comparisons and/or is a retelling, reimagining, etc. I like to be clear on whether or not I have any knowledge of those works.
In the case of Confessions on the 7:45’s comparison to Strangers On a Train, I’m back to being Captain America. Book? Nope. Movie? Nope. And please don’t tell my mom, a connoisseur of all things Alfred Hitchcock. I have seen The Birds, more times than I care to count. When it comes to the original Strangers on the Train (movie or book) …
And so, with that off my conscience, let us get down to the review of Lisa Unger’s latest Adult Psychological Thriller, Confessions on the 7:45. Where to even start, is the question. Confessions on the 7:45 is going to be one of the tough ones to review without giving a lot of things away. With that in mind, let me give you the summary- because I just don’t think I can give too much of the plot without killing all the fun…
Confessions on the 7:45 By Lisa Unger Summary
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.
Lisa Unger has a few in here and they are important. While I most definitely can’t do a deep dive without giving away all the things. I can definitely list some of my favorites out. This won’t be all of them, and I’m sure there are some that others will pick up. These are just some of the heavy hitters.
1) Obsession- Now this might seem like a well, duh. It is an Adult Psychological Thriller, so yeah. Except. That’s just the thing. Obsession can almost be overlooked. Whether that is because it is a given or because it is in so many that you don’t think about it much. Kudus to Lisa Unger for having at it. Obsession plays out in much different, darker ways than you would typically expect. That brings me to number two.
2) Trauma- Another well, duh. Except no. Again, the trauma rears its head in some expected and very much not expected places. You put that together with number one and the not so expected places provide really dark twists where you don’t see it coming. It is easy to chalk Confessions on the 7:45 as one thing when it is a multitude of things.
3) VALUE YOUR VERBAL SHOCKS- I’ve said this about myself when reading and about characters multiple times now. It bears repeating. Characters need to start valuing their verbal shocks, both internal and external. If something leaves you shook, stop brushing it off. There is a reason that your spidey-sense is kicking in. Listen to it. Then. There. In the now.
4) Savior Complex– Like what even in the hell. And really, search your soul. Are you saving this person? How exactly are you going about saving them? And are you, in saving them, providing them a better ‘next step’ or just another screwed-up set of circumstances?
5) Most Dangerous of Lies– This kind of goes back to #3, but the way women (but is it just women or people in general? I would argue that parents are the second big culprit here), justify, rationalize and lie to themselves about those they love most.
6) Social Media- Seriously. The greatest lie of all. Isn’t it though? There will be many who read Confessions on the 7:45 that need to value every single verbal shock they get from the issues raised around how society projects what we want it to through Instagram, Facebook, and the like. Whatever it takes to keep the facade up. And how easy we make it for people to find us, learn about us and our every detail through social media. If it kicks in your spidey-sense. If that or anything else in Lisa Unger’s latest kicks in your spidey-sense LISTEN TO IT.
No. I don’t know.
Themes without spoilers! HA! Let’s see what else I can get through.
Characters In Confessions On The 7:45
This is FANTASTIC. There are well-developed main characters and then, sometimes, a well-developed supporting cast. Lisa Unger wrote Confessions On the 7:45 from multiple points of view, so you know at least some of the supporting cast will have development. But when the son, who is in Kindergarten, has chapters- great chapters? You know this is a cast of keepers. One of the best parts of Confessions on the 7:45 is that the further you go, the more points of view, you get.
Don’t let that scare you, throughout this process, Lisa Unger never once loses any of the development or depth of the main characters that she originally starts with. In fact, bringing in the other points of view only adds to their development. Upon further reflection, what I realized is that there are characters that I would have expected to have points of view that never do. And it didn’t take away from the plot. In fact, again, it was refreshing because I’m sick and tired of hearing from them. I know what they think, and I honestly don’t care. They don’t have a right to a say, anymore.
That would have been me if certain characters had their own chapters, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.
I’m much happier with Oliver having his own chapters. Especially when the first one starts with:
Grown-ups lie. A lot.
Yeah. Oliver. They sure damn, do. And then he just lets it all fly
Grown-ups told you things were okay when they weren’t… The Easter Bunny, Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy. All lies.
And that might sound like no big deal. But trust and believe. Oliver has game. Most kids do. I’m not a mom but fifteen years in education leaves you knowing that kids taught you more than you would ever teach them. And Oliver is not stupid. To bring in his own chapters and then, later on, other characters that you wouldn’t expect. It not only brought more depth to the story, dynamic to relationships, and connection between past and present occurrences, but it left out the stale tried and true arcs that normally play out.
Lisa Unger is a master at the structure of a story that it is the juggernaut that pulls together Confessions On The 7:45 brilliantly. The prologue is vital to the whole arc of the story. However, unlike most books, once I got into it, I completely forgot the prologue existed until a character uttered a key phrase almost 75% in. Then I inhaled so much oxygen, I nearly suffocated the cats. II never forget a prologue. Not in YA or Adult, thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy. Ok. Let me not break out into the bookish version of Green Eggs and Ham. I know how vital they are, but yet there I was and then, BOOM.
Confessions on the 7:45 is completely character-driven. It is in the dynamics of all the characters, and how each of their stories builds upon each other, like a match that likes a wick. Unger builds the suspense through this continuous interweaving of a nefarious and unnerving set of dominoes. And it just continues to build, until the wick lights the bomb, the first domino topples, and the readers are left freefalling when eventually the entire bottom drops out.
Thank You To Park Row Books for and ARC in exchange for an honest review
Speaking of prologues- being there is a prologue that tells you that there is a long game. There has to be one, or the prologue doesn’t make sense. However, as my favorite character, Kaz Brekker, would say, you don’t win by running just one game. I would just twist that by saying you don’t write a great novel by being predictable with one long game. HA! I’ll leave that well, at that.
Lastly, I talk about the reveals you see coming that don’t make a book predictable because the author sets the clues and they make sense. The reveals that are TOO shocking, they just don’t make sense and are going for the shock factor. And the reveals within the reveals. The ones you can see coming but then there are the reveals within them. Well. Ms. Unger well played. Yeah, you might start off thinking, this is a bit predictable. I can only say one thing to that thought.
About Lisa Unger
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.
Buy Links Confessions On The 7:45