People confess their secrets to Wren Greenwood.
They don’t know her by that name. They know her as Dear Birdie, the nom de plume she uses for her wildly successful blog and podcast, where she advises the lost and broken-hearted.
“That’s what I do,” Wren tells us. “I help people solve their problems. My superpower is listening.”
But in Lisa Unger’s latest hold-your-breath psychological thriller, Last Girl Ghosted, Wren will need to find other superpowers — and deal with much greater danger than she bargained for when she swiped on a dating app.
This is the 19th novel in the string of bestsellers by Unger, who lives in Pinellas County. She just keeps getting better at writing irresistible thrillers; this one thrums with tension from its first pages and never lets up. As she’s done in several of her recent novels, such as last year’s Confessions on the 7:45, she takes the reader down a digital rabbit hole that has all too much impact on the real world.
Wren, like many people who are devoted to their jobs, has let her personal life slide. Though she’s young, single and living in New York City, she’s an introvert by nature and just about homebound. (The novel takes place just before the pandemic sets in — Unger threads in references to masks and news reports about a virus.)
Robin, one of her best friends since childhood, worries about the toll that being Dear Birdie takes on Wren emotionally: “It was a deluge of humanity in which I almost drowned.”
Jax, another of her closest friends, is Wren’s opposite: She’s gregarious, full of energy and determined to get Wren out into the world. Jax pushes until Wren consents to try an online dating site called Torch, although she’s dubious about the whole thing: “Modern dating. Let’s be honest. It sucks.”
But there he is. His photo is oddly unrevealing, his bio terse, but he quotes a line of poetry. Wren’s response: “Only a Rilke geek would know that line and what it meant.” She’s hooked.
When she meets Adam Harper at a bar, the connection is electric. For three months, their affair is all-consuming — great sex, great meals (both passions they share) and a deepening emotional bond.
At least that’s what Wren thinks, until Adam vanishes. One cryptic text and then nothing. His social media feeds vanish, his phone is dead.
At first she’s stunned and heartbroken. But then she starts to realize how little she really knows about him. She’s never met his friends or colleagues; his apartment, whose sleek style she’d admired, begins to seem more staged than minimalist. All she knows about his job is that he works in cybersecurity.
But Wren has secrets of her own. She narrates the book as if she’s speaking to Adam, but the repeated “you” has the effect of drawing the reader in so we feel we, too, have an intimate connection with Wren, whose voice is humorous and empathetic.
So when her secrets begin to slip out — for example, she’s never told Adam she’s Dear Birdie — our view of her subtly changes.
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Heartbreak turns to alarm when Wren is contacted by Bailey Kirk, a private detective who has been hired by the parents of a girl named Mia Thorpe. Kirk shows Wren a photo of the man Mia had been dating. It’s Adam. And Mia has been missing for six months.
It’s tough to say much more about Last Girl Ghosted without giving away its many finely tuned twists and surprises. But I promise you it will be a dark and wild ride — and you might think long and hard next time you swipe.
Last Girl Ghosted
By Lisa Unger
Park Row Books, 400 pages, $27.99
Meet the author
Tombolo Books present Lisa Unger in conversation with Times book editor Colette Bancroft at a book launch for Last Girl Ghosted at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Coastal Creative, 2201 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Admission $10, which includes wine and snacks; tickets available at tombolobooks.com/events.
Oxford Exchange presents Unger at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at its Champagne bar. Admission $5, or $30.09 for admission plus a copy of Last Girl Ghosted; tickets at oxfordexchange.com/pages/calendar.
Times Festival of Reading
Lisa Unger will be a featured author at the virtual Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading Nov. 8-14. festivalofreading.com