We love mystery!

What Would You Do: The Last Thing He Told Me

In another “What Would You Do” episode, Brook and Sarah discuss Laura Dave’s The Last Thing He Told Me.


The Last Thing He Told Me (2021) Laura Dave

Feedspot 40 Best Mystery Book Podcasts (2023)

For more information

Instagram: @cluedinmystery
Contact us: hello@cluedinmystery.com
Music: Signs To Nowhere by Shane Ivers – www.silvermansound.com


This transcript is generated by a computer and there may be some mis-spellings and strange punctuation. We try to catch these before posting, but some things slip through.

SarahWelcome to Clued in Mystery. I’m Sarah.
BrookAnd I’m Brook and we both love mystery.
SarahHi, Brook.
BrookHi, Sarah. How are you?
SarahI’m doing really well how about you?
BrookI’m good and I have some exciting news to share with our listeners today. We’ve been named by feed spot as one of the best mystery podcasts. They created a top 40 list and we’re at number 11 which makes us very proud. So you know you might want to head over to Feedspot and check us out and see if there are any other mystery shows on the list you might like. I know one of my favorites. Shedunnit is very deservedly at the number 1 spot. So, we’ll link their list in our show notes for you.
SarahOh, thank you so much for sharing that, Brook.
BrookI’m also excited because this is one of my favorite type of episodes, Sarah. We’re doing a “what would you do” talk.
SarahI’m so excited and today we’re doing The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave. The book was released in 2021 and earlier this year a screen adaptation was released on Apple TV. As with our other “What Would You Do” episodes we get into detail and there are definitely some spoilers, but we will discuss what we would do if we were in the main character’s shoes. So I’ll start us off with a brief overview. We meet Hannah Hall, an acclaimed wood turner, when she’s in her early 40s and recently married to Owen Michaels, becoming stepmother to 16-year-old Bailey with whom she is trying to build a relationship. One afternoon a girl hands Hannah a note at the Sausalito home that she shares with Owen and Bailey. The note, in Owen’s handwriting, simply reads “Protect her”. She tries to call her husband, but the call is unanswered. Later that day, a news story breaks out about The Shop, the technology firm where he is an executive. The Shop is being investigated for fraud and the CEO is taken into custody. Unsettled, Hannah picks up Bailey from an after-school drama practice. Bailey has with her a duffel bag filled with cash that she found in her locker along with a note from her father telling her to trust Hannah.
SarahShortly afterwards, Hannah learns from her good friend Jules, who is a reporter, that she warned Owen about the raid at The Shop. Hannah still cannot reach her husband. The next morning Grady Bradford a deputy with the US Marshal Service advises Hannah to get a lawyer saying, “Owen is not who you think he is”. Following Grady’s advice, Hannah seeks out their friend and neighbor Carl, who is a lawyer. After heated words, Carl’s wife reveals that Owen convinced them to invest in The Shop and now they’ve lost their money. Hannah is certain that Owen would not do this to their friends. At home Hannah searches Owen’s computer. She’s interrupted by the FBI and during a conversation with them she lies about the US Marshal. The FBI reveals that the wife of The Shop’s CEO bought tickets to Australia in an attempt to flee. Things are not looking good for Owen.
SarahAfter the FBI leaves, Hannah calls her former fiancée Jake, who is also a lawyer. Jake promises to look into Owen’s history, but he suggests Owen is on the run, echoing the US Marshal’s comment. Hannah realizes that Grady is from the Austin office of the US Marshals and Bailey remembers snippets of what she thinks might be Austin. Hannah recalls Owen being cagey when she suggested visiting the city so without telling Jake or Grady they board a plane.
SarahIn Austin, Hannah and Bailey follow Bailey’s faint memories, leading them to a church where Bailey thinks she attended a wedding. The church is a dead end and Carl calls Hannah and admits he lied about investing because he’d spent the money on his mistress. Hannah and Bailey leave disappointed and ready to return to California. That night, Jake tells Hannah that his private investigator has been unable to dig up anything on Owen. That Owen Michaels doesn’t exist before 2009 when he moved to Sausalito Jake wonders again if Owen and Bailey were on the run for some nefarious reason as he’s confirmed that they weren’t in witness protection. Hannah has some flashbacks of conversations that she had with her husband and Bailey recounts a memory that supports the idea that Owen changed his identity and the details that he has shared about his life are untrue. Still in Austin after Hannah has made a list of things that she believes to be true about her husband, Hannah and Bailey visit the university where they speak to Owen’s former professor, leading them to search the archives for a class roster. The lady from the church calls to say that the church was open during the preseason scrimmages and provides the name of a couple whose wedding coincided with one of the games. The groom’s surname matches a name on the class roster. Searching that name leads to a photograph of a woman who looks like Bailey in a bar called the Never Dry, which Bailey recognizes from a picture. Hannah enters the bar alone, instructing Bailey to wait outside though eventually she does enter, and the bartender calls her Kristen. Hannah and Bailey rush back to the hotel and pack their things. While Hannah is distracted, Bailey runs off. Grady shows up and takes Hannah to the US Marshal’s office where Hannah learns the truth about Owen. He married the daughter of a mob lawyer and performed work to help him. Owen’s wife, Bailey’s mother, was killed in a car accident and Owen, whose name was really Ethan, blamed his father-in-law and ran away with Bailey. Jules has opened a safe that Hannah asked her to look for and inside is Owen’s final will that sets out Hannah and Charlie Smith, the bartender at the Never Dry, as Bailey’s guardians. With this information Hannah returns to the bar and Charlie takes her to see his dad. They have a tense conversation and Hannah agrees to letting Bailey decide whether she meets her grandfather if the grandfather ensures she is safe.
SarahThe book ends with a scene several years later where Hannah and Bailey have a strong relationship and Owen bumps into Hannah to let her know that he’s safe and still loves her.
SarahBrook, at the beginning of the book when Bailey shows up with this bag full of money that she found in the in her locker, what would you do?
BrookOh, that’s such a good question, Sarah. I mean the whole um setup for the fact that her husband is gone. He’s left her the note like you say “protect her”. I think right from the beginning I would be a lot less excuse me a lot more freaked out than Hannah appears to be. You know I think I’d be calling his work I’d be calling the cops I’d be calling his friends and family like has anyone seen my husband. And so the same goes when the teenage daughter shows this huge bag of cash I mean I guess at that that point Hannah does get pretty upset. But um I would be freaking out.
SarahI think Bailey bringing that bag of money really signals to Hannah that something is up and Owen is not coming home and he expected not to be coming home.
BrookI mean I think immediately your whole idea of who your husband is would fall apart. Because why does he have a bag of almost $600,000. I mean who has that? You know unless you’re have something really clandestine happening.
SarahExactly. There would be so many things running through my head at that moment. Um, and as you say I would be trying to figure out what what do I do? Who can I talk to? Maybe that’s why she doesn’t phone the police is because you know the news has broken out about The Shop and so she’s kind of got this question, well he’s got all of this money like maybe he is involved and he’s on the run.
BrookRight? The fact that she doesn’t initially call the police works into her favor because then shortly after this money surfaces, news breaks about the fraud that’s happening at his tech firm. So thankfully she hasn’t and she’s able to then take steps with Bailey to start putting the pieces together.
SarahAnd when she does speak with law officials whether it’s the FBI or um, the US Marshal. She’s pretty guarded in terms of what she says because she’s still trying to figure out is she you know is there a way that she can protect Owen um and you know, potentially they can reunite um, you know at some point.
BrookAnd I was impressed by that because I was thinking about you know, just a run-of-the-mill girl like she is. I don’t know that I would have been that smart, to not be too emotional and um, you you know divulge more than I should or ah she plays actually through the whole book. She plays it really smart and makes good decisions considering she’s not someone who you know this is ah just average citizen. She’s hasn’t been in law enforcement or or the military. But um I doubt that I would have made such wise choices if I was put in this position and I would be have been a lot more emotional I’m sure.
SarahOh I agree I think I would be fretting a lot more. But she does have some pretty good lines in terms of you know, there’s one time when she’s speaking to Grady, the US Marshal. Um and he’s really hinting that she needs to let this go and he’s trying to figure out where she is he still he thinks she’s still in California and she says to him “Where shouldn’t I be?” while she’s in Austin because he doesn’t I think he doesn’t want her to be putting Bailey at risk.
BrookYeah, right? Because at that point she hasn’t figured out yet that it’s actually this second life that um that Owen took Bailey away from.
SarahYeah, potentially quite dangerous because her grandfather was involved with some very dangerous people.
BrookSo Sarah would you have been suspicious of the friend Jules? She’s the reporter. She gives Owen the heads up because she works at a news operation of some sort and she gives him the heads up that this bust is going to happen. But do you think as Hannah you would have been suspicious of what her involvement was?
SarahI don’t know. I’m pretty trusting and and I think for this character she doesn’t have a lot of people who are very close to her. Ah and and she seems to be to have a very close relationship with Jules. I think they were childhood friends and you know she knows Hannah’s history. so I I think I probably I will say as a reader that didn’t that didn’t cross my mind. Um, but it sounds like it did cross yours, Brook.
BrookIt did and I think if I put myself in Hannah’s shoes then I’m with you like you know this is Jules is like the closest thing she has to a sister um and really the only quote unquote family that she has left but from an author standpoint I thought there was a really good opportunity perhaps to throw a little bit of suspicion on her. Um, you know ditch does she know more about what was happening. Um I mean I think that it would have been a red herring in in the scope of the story I wouldn’t have thought she should be a bad character. But I just I thought I wonder if she’s going to have some bit of information that ah maybe Hannah doesn’t know about and ah that causes a little friction between them.
SarahThat’s ah, that’s a really great point. Um, but you know maybe there were so many people that Hannah was already mistrustful of that throughout the course of the book that throwing in Jules into that group was maybe just a bit too much.
SarahSo when Grady this US Marshal appears. How much would you reveal to him?
BrookYeah, like I said earlier I I’m afraid that I would probably be too revealing just because of the emotions that I would probably be feeling um but I would hope that I could be more like Hannah and be very reserved and thoughtful about what I was saying and I suppose the other part of that is um, yes, the emotions would eventually come but right there up front. She’s in shock so you know maybe the stoicism would just come because you’re just like literally reeling and trying to wrap your head around the fact that the life you thought you had didn’t exist at all.
SarahYeah, it’s so it’s so hard to tell because I think um, she tried she really does a good job of keeping her cards close to her chest, but I think she realizes that he’s got some answers. And so you know she needs to share a little bit of information with him and ultimately I think she does tell him about the money doesn’t she.
BrookYes, she does. A little bit has happened by that point and she realizes that even though they want two different things. Grady wants a different outcome than she does. Um, he is someone that she can by and large trust and so she ah starts to provide him with a little more information and give get some information from him.
SarahYeah, whereas with the FBI she doesn’t tell them and they have an entirely different motivation because they think that he is guilty of this fraud that um, the other people at at The Shop are involved in and um, they want to see him prosecuted for that and she’s certain that he’s not involved in that and um and it doesn’t tell them anything.
BrookRight? Yeah, they really are the antagonists. Well they are as well as ah, Owen’s ex father in law are the actual antagonists to the story.
SarahSo, jumping ahead to when they are in Austin and she goes to this bar I was really impressed with that scene again how she kind of figures out how to get some answers from the bartender who she thinks you know must know Owen from the past. Um, but when she gets some answers. They are not what she was expecting.
BrookRight? This is probably the scene that feels like the most like the amateur sleuth out there. You know interviewing ah a suspect not that at this point this man isn’t a suspect but it’s that feel where she’s. Like trying to figure out how to ask ah questions without seeming to be. You know, probing too deeply and I really liked the scene too and I thought I don’t think that again I must just be such a nervous nelly because I thought there’s no way I could do this I would have given myself away. I am not that great of an actress and I I don’t think I could have done it as good of a job as Hannah.
SarahOh, I’m with you, Brook. He would be able to read it on my face that the things that I was saying were not the truth.
BrookFor sure and even some of Hannah’s lines are a little bit um contrived and I’m like cringing thinking oh gosh I hope this guy doesn’t find her out but but she does learn what she needs to find out. She does learn at this point that it’s revealed that Bailey’s name was actually Kristen and um and that’s when the idea comes to her that ah, they’ve taken on a completely different identity.
SarahYeah I think I think that’s really when she realizes that yes Grady was right. They were on the run. And now she needs to figure out from what.
BrookDo you think when that when that um settles in for her? What do you think, Sarah. Would you suddenly start to wonder if you were part of the ruse like you know because their romance was quite whirlwind. Um, he’s obviously good at um I don’t know if conning is the right word but you know he’s been pretending to be someone he wasn’t for years. Would you start to wonder like was this just part of the plan he knew that I would be somebody who would. Take on his daughter because of my wounding.
SarahYeah, you know I’m sure that would have been running through my head right? They’d spent about two years together I think from the time they met to the time that he disappears um and yeah I would I would be kind of really replaying a bunch of moments and we see that in the book right? We see her replaying some key moments in their in their lives together. Um, and she does question like how much of what he told me was true? And ultimately realizes that a lot of it was made up. Um, but I think she holds fast to the idea that his love for her and his love for Bailey were true.
BrookRight? Yes, that’s what the culmination is that that part was true.
SarahSo she and Bailey have fled from ah the Never Dry which is the name of the bar that um Bailey’s mother’s family owned ah and after learning the truth about Owen from Grady, Hannah returns to the bar to speak to Charlie because she’s now decided that she needs to ensure that Bailey remains safe and that Bailey remains Bailey.
BrookYes I think I thought that that was a very smart move because um, you know her love for Bailey comes through because it would be easier like you say she’s been in this person’s life for two years and she could have walked away right? She could have been like “Hey this is your family. Best of luck to your kid.” But she truly did love her and she wanted what was best for her and she didn’t want her to have to change her identity again which is what would have happened if Grady’s scenario worked out, which is put them in witness protection. And so I I thought that that was I really um, admired Hannah at that point because by doing that. She’s also saying goodbye to Owen.
SarahYeah, such a difficult decision. Um, but I think she really holds on to the fact that he left her this note saying protect her. And this is what she believes Owen would have wanted. Choosing between your husband and his child that is that’s a really tough decision and I don’t know what I would do.
BrookI agree I I went around around with that in my mind like this is such a hard thing and and also because they’ve only been together such a short period of time you know. They didn’t have 10 years together they had like one. Terrible situation to be put into but I think it comes back to something you said at the beginning, which is you know, she knew what it felt like to not have a mom that was there for her and sticking up for her and she wanted to do better and um. And she did.
SarahAnd so she she goes to ah Owen’s father-in-law’s house. Charlie the bartender is Bailey’s uncle, and he takes her to his father’s house and the grandfather you know, explains the circumstance. And this is where they come to a conclusion that it will be Bailey’s choice whether this family has any part in her life. Um, but the grandfather will will keep her safe. And I have to say I really admired her negotiating this.
BrookAbsolutely, It’s another example of I don’t know that I could have been that strong.
SarahNo, it would it would be quite um, quite terrifying. I’m not sure that um the grandfather was necessarily behind any lives being lost but certainly was involved in in keeping his clients out of trouble for activities that they were doing that were illegal. So, Bailey’s mom was killed in a car accident that and the reason Owen fled was because he believed it was the mob had killed her in response to I think one of her father’s clients being found guilty and so that’s really what triggers Owen to leave.
BrookRight. He feels that that’s something he must do in order to keep Bailey safe because it’s unknown to him if there are other members of the family who would also be targets.
SarahBailey’s grandfather is adamant that it wasn’t the mob who was behind his daughter’s death that there was that there was someone else involved. But even if that was the case Owen could never have known if Bailey was at risk.
BrookThat’s right. And so do you think that you would have been able to trust the grandfather’s promise? Would you have left there feeling assured that you were safe?
SarahI don’t know.
BrookYeah, the the outcome when she leaves and they’ve made this arrangement that they’ll stay safe. Um I think and and then the fact that she knows that that means she’s saying goodbye to her husband. I mean speaking of emotions earlier. What must those first few weeks have been like I don’t know how I don’t know how I would feel safe like even moving around my city or sending my my now teenage daughter to school. Um I think that would just be really, really stressful until you settled in and you realized okay he was he was being honest and um and I can trust his word.
SarahYeah I I don’t know it would be very very difficult because I think there would always be that question about have I made the right decision should we just be calling Grady back up and saying ok, we want a new life. We want to be protected. Um but clearly Owen didn’t feel like they were going to be safe under um witness protection and you know he kind of put them into witness protection but it wasn’t a formal witness protection right? It was his own his own version of it.
BrookRight. And that’s what convinced Hannah to do the same thing because she thought you know that that’s what he knew was best. But the book does end with a nice epilogue. We get to see Bailey and Hannah a few years down the road.
SarahExactly and you know they’ve clearly stayed in touch and and their relationship has has deepened There’s even a moment when Hannah calls her mom. And that’s really you know nice to see that Hannah has made the right decision for them.
BrookI loved that part when she was happy to see her and she said mom and ran to her and it just that it just made me really happy.
SarahYeah, yeah, and and I mean I think the whole book kind of ended on what is rare for these kinds of books it it really ended on an uplifting note.
BrookRight. Right. I mean we’ve talked about domestic thrillers before sometimes ending worse than they begin and um and this one had an uptick so I liked that.
SarahShe catches that glimpse of Owen and she knows it’s him because he’s wearing the ring that she had made for him when they got married.
BrookYes, so how hard would it have been for you, Sarah not to talk with him not to approach him?
SarahOh, so difficult. But you know, maybe it opened the door to at some point them being able to reconnect right? If he’s he had changed his um appearance. He’d gotten some tattoos and I think his hair was longer than he used to wear it. Um, and maybe he’d gained a little bit of weight or lost some weight I can’t remember which. But you know maybe him kind of showing himself to her was the first step towards them potentially rebuilding a life. Maybe he wouldn’t be Owen. Maybe he would have a new name but she could remain Hannah and and Bailey could remain Bailey.
BrookI like that I like imagining what what was possibly happening next in that story.
SarahSo, Brook I think this is this is really fun to kind of break down what you would do if you were in the in the shoes of Hannah Hall.
BrookIt was a lot of fun, Sarah. I love these episodes so much and thanks for the a great conversation today and thank you all for listening to Clued in Mystery. I’m Brook.
SarahAnd I’m Sarah and we both love mystery.