The Stranger: Harlan Coben

Posted: May 2, 2016 in Agatha Christie, Book Awards, review, tv crime fiction, USA

cobenI picked up Harlan Coben’s The Stranger in our local supermarket simply because the main character was called Adam Price.

The book was a typical quick read airport novel with Adam’s American Dream life coming to an abrupt end as a stranger tells him something about Corinne, his wife, he does not want to hear. In typical Coben style Corinne mysteriously goes missing. This is the third Harlan Coben novel I have read and in Tell No One, Six Years and The Stranger the main protagonist is searching for his woman. It seems to be a winning formula? 

The setting is in one of those idyllic American small towns where everyone seems to have a plenty of money, but there is an undercurrent of trouble. The reader realises the suburban town is very wealthy, because Adam’s sons play lacrosse at high school. The plot features embezzlement, corporate greed, murder, blackmail and computer hacking. 

One of the book’s failings is that many of the characters lack any depth. They seem to have been selected from a box of standard stereotypes, but Coben sells millions of books simply because his novels are such easy reads.  

Too bad. Too bad his old man couldn’t see how his only son had become such a big man in this town. Bob no longer lived on the crummy side of town where the teachers and blue-collar guys tried to survive. No, he bought the big manor with the mansard roof in the ritzy “country club” section of town. He and Melanie drove his-and hers Mercedes. People respected them.

I have noticed reading Le Carre, and some Nordic authors, that “happy endings” are not in vogue, and Harlan Coben follows this trend. Does ending a novel with a tragedy make it great literature?   

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Comments
  1. That’s an interesting question, Norman. I personally don’t think a tragic ending is necessary, but I’ll have to really ponder that….

  2. JJ says:

    I think it’s fair to say that even Coven wouldn’t call his own work great literature – he’s trying to entertain and usurp your expectations, which he manages to a greater or lesser extent. However, given the twee nature of some of his conclusions, perhaps a tragic ending is just another way to surprise his readers – “You think thus will end happily? Well I’ll show you…!”. A bit like when M. Night Shyamalan stopped putting twists at the end of his movies…it’s simply another convention overturned to give a sense of surprise, I’d say.

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