The Stranger is one such tale that fails to live up to Coben at his nail-biting best, though it is clever enough to be entertaining.
Adam Price, his wife Corinne, and their sons Ryan and Thomas live the idyllic suburban dream in Cedarfield, N.J. This picture perfect life comes crashing to a halt however one night at a bar when a man known only as the stranger reveals to Adam a scret that his wife has kept hidden, a secret that shatters Adam’s world and causes his wife to vanish.
The strange imparts secrets like that on various individuals across the country, including a middle-aged woman and a medical student. Price decides he must hunt down the stranger if he is to find his wife.
Sadly Adam is not the most compelling lead I’ve ever read, he’s naive and befuddled in his attempts to find his wife and track down the stranger. He’s a prominent lawyer and yet the way he goes about his investigations are more akin to a toddler, and all of that makes for more of an exhausting read. We want Adam to succeed, we want him to find out the answers, and yet he’s so frustratingly useless at times I just wanted him to give up and go home so I could stop reading.
Worse though is the stranger. His attempt to rationalise his actions of outing peoples secrets simply to ‘rid the world of lies’ is questionable at best and just plain bad storytelling at worst. It’s almost as if Coben wanted us to feel for the stranger, to feel he was a good guy but his self-righteous piety and desire to ruin peoples lives simply to out secrets is disgusting at its very base level. This is not a character we should be persuaded to have any sympathy for.
But it’s not all bad, it really isn’t, this is still a fun read with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing up until the end. I can’t recommend this book for any new Coben readers but if you’ve enjoyed him in the past I think you’ll find enough here to be worth a read if you have some spare time and nothing else to fill it with.
If you’d like to check out The Stranger for yourself you can find it on Amazon.