Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: The Stranger by Harlan Coben

The Stranger
by Harlan Coben
Release Date: March 24, 2015
2015 Dutton
Hardcover Edition; 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-0525953500
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

The Stranger appears out of nowhere, perhaps in a bar, or a parking lot, or at the grocery store. His identity is unknown. His motives are unclear. His information is undeniable. Then he whispers a few words in your ear and disappears, leaving you picking up the pieces of your shattered world.

Adam Price has a lot to lose: a comfortable marriage to a beautiful woman, two wonderful sons, and all the trappings of the American Dream: a big house, a good job, a seemingly perfect life.

Then he runs into the Stranger. When he learns a devastating secret about his wife, Corinne, he confronts her, and the mirage of perfection disappears as if it never existed at all. Soon Adam finds himself tangled in something far darker than even Corinne’s deception, and realizes that if he doesn’t make exactly the right moves, the conspiracy he’s stumbled into will not only ruin lives—it will end them.

My Thoughts
The Stranger is a novel about secrets: Basically, about what happens when a stranger approaches you and reveals a secret, perhaps a dangerous secret, about someone you love and the consequences of that revealing to one's relationship and one's life.  I really liked the concept of this story, and thought the effects and consequences were really interesting, but the plot itself took a long time to come together, not a bad thing in itself, it's just there was something missing that is usually there in a Coben novel.

This novel is supposed to make you think about the moral implications of withholding a big secret from your loved ones and the consequences of keeping said secret.  A stranger approaches you out of nowhere and reveals important information about your life and expects you to make decisions about leaving that person or confronting that person, acting like your moral compass in a way, something that really bothered me, and is questioned frequently throughout.  Does someone have the right to probe into our private lives in such a way, and question our thoughts and actions and feelings, expecting us to behave in such a way, to take the moral high ground?  Not everyone does in this novel, and as a result, there is blackmail involved too, which is a nonperson felony.  There were some twists and turns in this novel, and I definitely liked the way technology was woven into the narrative to show us how it was used to garner information on people or how vulnerable technology can make us.  It also showed the positive side to technology when a locator app was used, something I have used myself on occasion for straying children who don't always come home from school when they're supposed to because they got sidetracked with friends.

I actually thought it was a solid mystery, although I was far more interested in the side stories than I was in Adam's story, other than his ongoing search for information.  Adam's wife, Corinne, had such a flimsy excuse for leaving that I didn't really focus too much on her absence until more information became available and it became much more interesting.  I love Harlan Coben, and have enjoyed many of his books, but I don't feel that he did justice to Corinne's absence as I really didn't feel any empathy towards it. And while I get that Adam was upset, and so were the boys, it didn't really carry across the page very well.  Something just felt off the whole time I was reading, although I couldn't quite get a feel for what it was.   I wonder if we had Corinne's POV if it would have made the difference, or perhaps one of the boys. It's not that I didn't like Adam, some of the events were somewhat unclear and not as effective.

The Stranger is suspenseful enough to keep you reading and wanting to finish the book, but the dialogue is a bit choppy and the plot is acceptable.  I do feel that the usual Coben flair for effective suspense and good plot twists was missing, leaving a novel that felt flatter than usual, missing that certain something.  I did find some of the characters interesting, and definitely thought the concept was neat and thought-provoking.  However, the concept didn't make up for an ending that seemed rather contrived and too many things were resolved rather too neatly for my taste.  


  1. I've never gotten into reading his work. Good review on this one!

  2. I have thoroughly enjoyed Harlan Coben's books, but I've found that the latter ones seem to follow such a similar storyline that I've discontinued reading them. Sorry this one disappointing.

    1. I feel exactly the same way. It's gotten to the point that I don't look forward to new releases from some authors any more which is sort of sad.