Sunday, September 11, 2016

Review of "The Stranger" by Harlan Coben




Adam Price, husband and father of two sons - Ryan and Thomas - attends the youth lacrosse team draft in his New Jersey town to make sure Thomas makes it onto the premier team. Just before the draft begins a young man - who identifies himself as 'the stranger' - tells Adam that his wife Corinne faked her recent pregnancy and miscarriage. Shocked, Adam finds proof and - when Corinne returns from a teacher conference in Atlantic City - confronts her. Corinne basically admits the deception and asks for a day to explain herself. She then disappears, sending Adam a message that they need time apart and asking him to take care of the kids.

Adam then proceeds to search for Corinne, discovering information about 'the stranger' along the way. Turns out the stranger is part of a group that makes it their business to discover and expose people's secrets, sometimes engaging in blackmail along the way. This is a dangerous endeavor that leads to a couple of murders, about which Adam is questioned. To add to the hubbub, a large amount of money is missing from the lacrosse team funds, and Corinne - who's on the lacrosse team board - is a suspect.

There are a number of characters and threads in the story: the lacrosse board members have personal problems; 'the stranger' confronts several people with secrets they don't want exposed; an ex-detective has a son with cancer; Ryan and Thomas are upset about their mom's disappearance; a woman police chief from Ohio inserts herself into the murder investigations; Adam Price has a secret of his own; and so on.

I have a couple of problems with the book: First, the motives and actions of 'the stranger' and his friends doesn't ring true. A group that feels compelled to reveal people's secrets for the good of society? Really? Second, in real life Corinne would probably have told Adam some things she kept secret. Because of this the plot seems more contrived than realistic.

Still, the book's a suspenseful page turner and an enjoyable mystery. Overall, I'd recommend it to mystery fans.

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