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Sunday, April 5, 2015


4 stars out of 5

Well, the first thing I'll say is wow! It's been a long time since I really, really didn't want to put a book down - and even longer when I actually put off something important (like cooking dinner) so I could have a few more minutes to read. Okay, you say, then why just 4 stars?

In fact, the dropping of the 5-star rating was decided somewhere around the 80% mark; all the loose ends were tied up neatly by the end, as far as I could tell, but somehow the final package wasn't quite as satisfying (or believable) as I'd expected. And, as other reviewers have said, there's a truckload of characters to keep track of; except for those who appear with some regularity, it was a little hard to remember who some of them were when they popped up after a multi-chapter absence.

Ah, but that first 80% had me hooked every word of the way. Truth is, so did the rest - even if I wasn't totally happy with the ending, I couldn't wait to get there. The book begins as a man who calls himself the Stranger suddenly appears, cornering "innocent" people who are going about their daily lives. Once he's got their attention, he shares a bit of information and saunters off leaving the recipients almost in shock. That happens to Jersey suburb dweller and attorney Adam Price, who has a beautiful wife, two lacrosse-loving sons and what appears to him to be the good life.

But those few words, and the realization of his wife's deception, turns Adam's world upside down. When he confronts his wife, she not only doesn't deny it - she runs away, leaving a cryptic text message that she wants to be left alone for a few days. Adam doesn't buy it, especially since she packed up with no word to the sons for whom she lives and breathes and absconds from the teaching job she normally wouldn't skip out on for the world. Unbeknownst to Adam, other people are having similar experiences; suddenly, they're told that the Stranger knows a deep, dark secret; for some, that knowledge turns out to be deadly. For Adam, all it does is raise more questions - and he sets out to find the answers (and, of course, his wife).

There's a fair amount of reliance on technology here (of the Big Brother is watching you variety), and if you're one of the few folks left on this planet who think none of this can happen, hopefully your eyes will be opened and you'll at least take a closer look at the security features on your smartphone. 

The Stranger by Harlan Coben (Dutton, March 2015); 396 pp.

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