Book Review: 'The Stranger'
Harlan Coben. Dutton, 386 pp. $27.95
I read Harlan Coben's "Missing You" last year, and I really enjoyed it. Coben is a good writer, and I liked the development of the characters and storyline in that novel. When I saw "The Stranger" was coming, I thought I'd give it a shot as well.
On the plus side, Coben is a very reader-friendly writer. I read this book over the course of last Saturday (thanks to the three-hour nap of my nearly 6-month-old). It's entertaining, and I was really interested to see what Coben would do with the characters he set up in the first few chapters.
Adam Price is approached by a complete stranger one day and told that his wife's most recent pregnancy, which had occurred a few years previous and had never reached full term, was a fake. He asked Price to look for unusual activity on their credit card bill, which eventually led him to a website that sells fake pregnancy tests, sonograms and bellies.
The question Price sets out to answer is why. Why would his wife fake a pregnancy? What is the missing piece? Before she can explain everything to him, however, she disappears. He receives a text message asking for a few days' apart. But something still doesn't add up.
I was pretty sure through the story that I had an idea of how everything would end out. Spoilers don't necessarily bother me, because I like finding my way to the end anyway. I wasn't right, and this was unfortunate because the real ending disappointed me.
Coben begins "The Stranger" with a really interesting idea -- a complete stranger going around revealing secrets to people's families and close friends -- and he ends the book with an interesting idea (which I'm not going to mention for those who don't like spoilers). But the two stories should be separate books, and he creates them into one. The real story, at least from what Coben writes, is less about the stranger and more about Price.
Altogether, I left the book underwhelmed. Coben is still a good writer, and I will likely read other books he puts out, but this one was definitely not his best work.