Sunday, March 22, 2015
Review: The Stranger by Harlan Coben
I am not ashamed to say that I am one of Harlan Coben's loyal fans. I love his fast-paced, all engrossing mystery suspense thrillers. He is my go to when I just want to forget about my crappy life and read about someone else's crappy life. These stories remind me how things could be so much worse. Coben has mastered the art of convincing people the ones we love the most just might not be who we think they are or they may harbor some type of secret that could shatter our lives and cause everything to unravel. The Stranger is no exception.
Adam Price was living a comfortable life with his wife Corinne and their two sons when a stranger tells him that his wife has a secret that could destroy their matrimonial bliss. As Adam begins to investigate the validity of the stranger's claims, he is (as most characters from Coben's novels are) ill equipped for the battle that will occur.
At almost the same time, a detective named Johanna Griffin is investigating the death of a close friend. And it seems that she and Adam both have the stranger in common. Before long, it becomes a cat and mouse game where everyone is looking for someone. Adam is looking for his wife who has disappeared without a trace after being confronted with the secret, while Johanna is looking for the person responsible for the ruthless killing of her good friend. All roads lead to the stranger.
So why my 3-star rating? Well... where do I start? No it's not that bad really. I just felt a strong disconnect with The Stranger. Usually I'm able to support the charmingly befuddled lead in Coben's novels but this time I couldn't. Adam never really came to life for me. He's a prestigious lawyer who has every resource at his fingertips yet still chooses to go about things the wrong way. His investigations are flawed. His followup is flawed. His naivete makes for an exhausting read.
The Stranger is not only flawed with Adam Price. Sorry Coben! I'm still a fan but this one just had my head spinning. Yes, in every mystery novel you want your head to spin but not so much so that you can't pinpoint a single possible lead to solving the mystery along with the characters. And I didn't buy Coben trying to humanize the "stranger" and his crew who only wanted to rid the world of lies. I didn't buy this whole just maybe they're doing a good thing view.
It's not all bad. Really it isn't. Harlan Coben still allows me the chance to get lost in a story that I can only be happy isn't happening to me. Although this time around his characters are a little thin, it's still frightening to think that someone is tracking my moves online and waiting. They are offering that information to the highest bidder just so they are able to continue ruining other people's lives with their revelations.
Overall, The Stranger is a fun read with lots of twists and turns. There's no shortage of possible suspects. Yet, sadly, there's too much going on to ever fully digest the curveballs that are thrown our way. Newbies shouldn't read this novel and expect to become fans of my same caliber. Harlan Coben's The Stranger has reminded me not to ever expect anything good from a conversation with a stranger in a smoky, dim lighted bar. ***
Copy Provided by Penguin Group via Netgalley