The Stranger by Harlan Coben

fpoThe Stranger. Finished 8-25-15, rating 3.5/5, thriller, pub. 2015

Unabridged audio read by George Newbern. 10 hours.

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.

Then he runs into the Stranger. When he learns a devastating secret about his wife, Corinne, he confronts her, and the mirage of perfection disappears as if it never existed at all. Soon Adam finds himself tangled in something far darker than even Corinne’s deception, and realizes that if he doesn’t make exactly the right moves, the conspiracy he’s stumbled into will not only ruin lives—it will end them      from Goodreads

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Harlan Coben fan.  He is a master of fast paced thrillers filled with quick wit and sharp dialogue.  The storylines always seem to have an element ripped from the headlines; in this case the ruse of the Stranger and his band of merry tech (wo)men seems to mirror the hilarity/debacle of the recent Ashley Madison hack.  Coben always has  a relatable hero and a common entry into the cat and mouse game his stories share.  This was not a favorite of mine for reasons I’ll go into next, but it’s solid and satisfying which is something I can always count on with Coben.

How frightening would t be if someone showed up out of nowhere and revealed a terrible secret held by someone you love?  Depending on the nature of the secret it would probably be devastating.  The Stranger has a small group who use the internet to track down secrets people didn’t even know were there and then they blackmail them.  Pay up or a loved one hears the news.  When Adam confronts his wife with what he found out she mysteriously disappears, leaving Adam to ask the wrong questions and make a few missteps.  His perfect life in the ‘burbs is threatened but he fears there’s more at stake.

I liked the idea of this one, but it went in so many different directions that it really felt pretty flimsy when it all came together.  Even Adam felt flimsy to me and he was supposed to be a sympathetic character!  The end was a surprise that I mostly liked so that helped end on a high note.  With all of the possibilities of the Stranger I was expecting more.