Book Review: The Stranger by Harlan Coben

The StrangerThe Stranger
Harlan Coben
Dutton, March 2015
ISBN 978-0-525-95350-0

From the publisher – no spoilers here:

“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.”  He introduces himself thusly:  “I’m the stranger.  The stranger with important knowledge,” or “the stranger who reveals truth.”  And proceeds to destroy, or end, lives with his information, whatever it is, different in each instance.


This scene is repeated in several of those anonymous settings mentioned above, each time devastating the person on the receiving end.  (For a different take, the author offers a [very apt] quote from T.S. Eliot:  “Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger.  Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.  There is one who remembers the way to your door:  Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.”

Once the Stranger imparts his information to his mostly unwilling listener, there is no way one can put that genie back in the bottle, or unring that bell, or whatever other cliché one may choose.  The unwavering theme of the novel is “secrets and lies,” and once exposed, there is no going back.  As one character says to another:  “How far would you go to protect your family?  You’d never hurt anyone, I’d never hurt anyone.  But if someone threatens your family, if it means saving your child . . .”   But we are reminded that “People will do anything to keep their secrets.  Even kill.”The name of the stranger is not revealed to the reader until more than half-way through the book.

In trademark Coben fashion, the author has given us another suspense-filled novel.  It would appear that Dutton is bringing out the author’s next thriller, Fool Me Once, on March 22, 2016, and I for one can’t wait!

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2015.