Book Review – The Stranger by Harlan Coben
First published, 2015

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This was my first time reading Harlan Coben, and I really enjoyed his storytelling. I found The Stranger fast-paced, intricate and engaging, a real page-turner. There was a lot of tension and it was exciting, right from the off.

In the story, Adam Price is pretty comfortable. He’s married to Corinne and they have two sons and a nice life in New Jersey. One day, Adam is approached by a stranger, at the American Legion Hall, who tells him a shocking secret about Corinne.

There are a great number of well-drawn characters and the storytelling is excellent. If the plot hadn’t been so strong, I’ll admit, I would have given fewer stars.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t enjoy the pop culture references.

For example: “He flipped through the music stations as he drove, searching for some nonexistent perfect song that would be, as Stevie Nicks might sing, “hauntingly familiar”.”
The Stranger, Harlan Coben, page 132.

Now, I’m sorry, but this is annoying on two levels.
1. I can’t hear any reference to Stevie Nicks, or Edge of Seventeen, without feeling the absolute compulsion to dig out the CD and start dancing round the living room in my socks. Once exhausted, I will (of course) go back to the story, but I will resent it for making me think of Stevie Nicks who, almost certainly, didn’t write the book.
2. There’s no question that Harlan Coben is a master of the written word, so a reference to an outside source feels disconnected and – kind of sluggish.

“To paraphrase that movie with Jack Nicholson, some people can’t handle the truth.”
The Stranger, Harlan Coben, page 294.

As this is my first experience of Harlan Coben’s writing, I have no idea whether this is just a stylistic choice that crops up in all his works, however, I didn’t care for it.

It felt (I’m sorry) lazy.