A fairly typical well written thriller from a long list of books by Harlan Coben.
Coben excels in thrillers as we have seen in previous books such as Shelter and Play Dead. And with such an impressive resume The Stranger is simply following in formidable footprints without a lot of ammunition. Whilst a good read, it was lacklustre in comparison to series such as the Micky Bolitar series. But I digress.
The book follows the standard conventions of a thriller – secrets hidden for years are being revealed and the consequences must be met. Our protagonist Adam is simply one of many who are told that all in their lives is not as it seems. And in the huge webs of secrets and lies is the Stranger. The one who reveals all.
My disappointment with the Stranger is how the mystery behind the character is dropped seemingly without a thought. One minute he is the Stranger to us and to our protagonists and the next his name is revealed casually by another character. My biggest issue is that the mysteriousness could have been covering something intricate to add more substance to the story but all it did was leave me annoyed that I had so much time wondering about a character with little meaning. He was there to spark events but in my opinion wasn’t a talking point. Similarly Kuntz could have added something to the story but his story was thrown in with a few paragraphs and his real goal whilst revealed was never explained fully. I couldn’t hate him because again he was only there to push a tiny section of plot.
As a thriller it started off well, Coben dropped in small clues as to what was going on and the eventual ‘who dun it’ but then these clues just seemed to evaporate into thin air. What originally made you think was then either handed to you on a plate or withheld altogether. The bonds between characters such as Adam and wife Corrinne seemed forced, even the connection with his sons simply seemed to be there to serve as a way for Coben to push the dramatics of a missing person and less for the realistic feel of the book. We weren’t even sure of Adam some of the time. He comes up with all these great ideas but we see no thought process just a miraculous decision that works out well.
I think ultimately I finished the book because it was by Coben, not through a need to know how it ended. It was just too emotionally distant from the characters and completely unexpected considering previous works. Hopefully the newest book by Coben tugs the heart more, maybe then death and deception will matter more to the reader.
Coben’s latest book Fool Me Once was published in March this year.