The Stranger

The Stranger

3.8 149
by Harlan Coben
     
 

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#1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense Harlan Coben delivers his most shocking thriller yet, proving that a well-placed lie can help build a wonderful life—and a secret has the same explosive power to destroy it.
 
The Stranger appears out of nowhere, perhaps in a bar, or a parking lot, or at the grocery store. His identity

Overview

#1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense Harlan Coben delivers his most shocking thriller yet, proving that a well-placed lie can help build a wonderful life—and a secret has the same explosive power to destroy it.
 
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.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Charles Finch
Coben describes Adam's search for the truth…with masterly skill, springing surprises, raising stakes, seamlessly integrating other victims of the "stranger" into Adam's tale. He's also a smooth, funny writer…The book's denouement is enough to make you later to bed than you wanted.
Publishers Weekly
02/09/2015
Bestseller Coben (Missing You) continues to turn out thrillers that put highly original spins on a current trend or problem, and while this standalone lacks the nail-biting suspense of his best, it's clever enough to be thoroughly entertaining. Adam Price, wife Corinne, and sons Ryan and Thomas are living the suburban dream in Cedarfield, N.J. Then, at a bar in Cedarfield's American Legion Hall, a man known only as the stranger reveals to Adam a secret of Corinne's that shatters the dream and causes Corinne to disappear. The stranger similarly imparts devastating secrets to Heidi Dann, a middle-aged woman with a family in Beachwood, Ohio, and Michaela Siegel, a medical student in New York City. Price shifts his search efforts from Corrine to the stranger, who is also being pursued by some extremely nasty characters. Lives and reputations are lost along the way. Even when not at his best, Coben is very good, and readers won't be disappointed. Agent: Lisa Erbach Vance, Aaron Priest Literary Agency. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
Praise for The Stranger

"Coben describes Adam’s search for the truth behind these allegations — and the identity of the person who made them — with masterly skill, springing surprises, raising stakes, seamlessly integrating other victims of the 'stranger' into Adam’s tale. He’s also a smooth, funny writer."
-- New York Times Book Review

"This page-turner is one stranger that readers will want to meet." -- Associated Press

"Seamless storytelling at a breathtaking pace." -- Houston Chronicle 

"Coben can always be relied on to generate thrills from the simplest premises, but his finest tales maintain a core of logic throughout the twists. This 100-proof nightmare ranks among his most potent." -- Kirkus, starred review

"Coben’s latest stand-alone is a great story for people who like to examine the ephemeral nature of those strings that bind our dreams to our reality." -- Library Journal

""The Stranger" isn’t just a great thriller, it’s a stunningly effective, probative novel about one man’s search, essentially, for his own identity…Flat-out great and not to be missed.” -- Providence Journal

"Master of 'the hook'" -- Charlotte Observer

“[A]nother suspenseful thriller whose gripping and intricate plot is completely plausible, and chilling.” — Huffington Post

“[T]horoughly entertaining.” — Publishers Weekly

Praise for Harlan Coben and his novels

“Coben is simply one of the all-time greats—pick up any one of his thrillers and you’ll find a riveting, twisty, surprising story with a big, beating heart at its core.”  —Gillian Flynn, bestselling author of Gone Girl

"Once again, Coben has brilliantly used a current trend, in this case Internet dating, to create a can't-put-it-down thriller."
Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Missing You

"Coben... has written another twisty ripped-from-the-headlines page-turning stand-alone that could be his best yet."
Library Journal (starred review) on Missing You

"Once again, Coben has expertly constructed and then dismantled a time bomb of a plot."
—Booklist on Missing You

"Missing You is another winner in Coben's stack of winners."
— Huffington Post

"This is a dive-in, lose-sleep and miss-your-bus-stop reading experience."
— Associated Press on Missing You

“The narrative is immersive, and the well-drawn characters and twisting plotting are stellar. With such a cool hook and a surprising and satisfying payoff, don’t wait six years to read what might be Coben’s best since Tell No One.”
Library Journal (starred review) on Six Years

“Any new book from Coben is a cause for celebration, and one as good as Six Years is cause for jubilation.”
The Huffington Post

“With Six Years, the author shows once more how it’s done. . . . The beauty of Coben’s craftsmanship here is how often he can lure us into not perceiving what’s clearly right in front of our eyes.”
The Washington Post

“A Harlan Coben Home Run. Stunningly effective. This is Coben’s Vertigo, his masterpiece.”
Providence Sunday Journal on Six Years

"Energetic and action-packed, this is one of those novels that has you flipping pages at warp speed.”
USA Today on Six Years

“A tour de force stand-alone . . . satisfying on every level.”
Booklist (starred review) on Stay Close

Library Journal
10/15/2014
Marriage is not bliss when Adam and Hannah confront the terrible secret on which their entire relationship is based, leaving Adam fearful that he's never really known his wife. With seven consecutive No. 1 New York Times best sellers, Coben looks rock-solid on this one. With a five-city tour.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2015-02-03
Another one of Coben's got-it-all New Jersey dads finds out that his wonderful wife has been hiding a whopper of a secret from him—a secret whose trail leads to even more monstrous revelations."We're living the dream," Tripp Evans assures Adam Price at their sons' sixth-grade lacrosse all-star team draft—lacrosse, for crying out loud. But the dream is already slipping from Adam's grasp as Tripp speaks. Minutes earlier, a young stranger who declined to give his name had sidled up to Adam and informed him that his wife had faked her first pregnancy, which had supposedly ended in a miscarriage. When an agonized Adam confronts Corinne with the story, she doesn't deny it. Instead, she pleads for more time and promises that she'll tell all over a restaurant dinner the following day. Adam, who's clearly never read anything by Coben (Missing You, 2014, etc.), agrees, and Corinne checks out of her high school teaching job and vanishes, pausing just long enough to text Adam: "YOU TAKE CARE OF THE KIDS. DON'T TRY TO CONTACT ME. IT WILL BE OKAY." Days pass, and it's not OK. Adam's two boys (are they really even his? should he run DNA tests?) keep asking where their mom is. There's no word from Corinne, who won't answer Adam's texts. Her cellphone places her somewhere near Pittsburgh. Rumors about her start to percolate through the lacrosse league. And, although it'll take Adam quite a while to find this out, a murder in far-off Ohio has implications for Corinne's disappearance even more disturbing than anything Adam's imagined. Coben can always be relied on to generate thrills from the simplest premises, but his finest tales maintain a core of logic throughout the twists. This 100-proof nightmare ranks among his most potent.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780451414137
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/09/2016
Pages:
480
Sales rank:
16,612
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The stranger didn’t shatter Adam’s world all at once.

That was what Adam Price would tell himself later, but that was a lie. Adam somehow knew right away, right from the very first sentence, that the life he had known as a content suburban married father of two was forever gone. It was a simple sentence  on  the  face  of  it,  but there was  something   in  the  tone, something  knowing  and  even  caring,  that  let Adam  know  that nothing  would ever be the same.

“You didn’t have to stay with her,” the stranger said.

They were in the American Legion Hall in Cedarfield, New Jersey. Cedarfield was a town loaded up with wealthy hedge fund managers and bankers and other financial masters-of-the-universe types. They liked to drink  beer in the American  Legion Hall  be- cause  it was  comfortable slumming,  a way  to  pretend  that  they were  salt-of-the-earth good  ol’ boys,  like something  in a Dodge Ram commercial, when they were anything  but.

Adam stood by the sticky bar. There was a dartboard behind him. Neon signs advertised Miller Lite, but Adam had a bottle of Budweiser in his right hand.  He turned to the man, who had just sidled up to him, and even though Adam already knew the answer, he asked the man, “Are you talking to me?”

The guy was younger than most of the fathers, thinner, almost gaunt, with big, piercing blue eyes. His arms were white and reedy with a hint of a tattoo showing beneath one of the short sleeves. He was wearing a baseball cap. He wasn’t quite a hipster, but there was something of a wonk attitude coming off him, like some guy who ran a tech department and never saw the sun.

The  piercing  blue  eyes held Adam’s  with  an  earnestness  that made  him  want  to  turn  away. “She told you she was pregnant, right?”

Adam felt his grip on the bottle tighten.

“That’s why you stayed. Corinne told you she was pregnant.”

It was right then that Adam felt some kind of switch go off in his chest, as if someone had tripped the red digital timer on some movie bomb and now it had started to tick down. Tick, tick, tick, tick.

“Do I know you?” Adam asked.

“She told you she was pregnant,” the stranger continued. “Corinne, I mean. She told you she was pregnant and then she lost the baby.”

The American Legion Hall was loaded up with town dads sporting those white baseball T-shirts with the three-quarter sleeves and either baggy cargo shorts or perfectly no-assed Dad jeans. Lots of them wore baseball caps. Tonight was the fourth-, fifth-, and sixth- grade boys’ lacrosse draft and A-team selections. If you ever wanted to witness type As behaving as such in their natural habitat, Adam thought, watch when parents get involved in their own offsprings’ team selections.

The Discovery Channel should film this.

“You felt obligated to stay, am I right?” the man asked. “I don’t know who the hell—”

“She lied, Adam.” The younger man spoke with such conviction, not just as though he knew for certain but that, at the end of the day, he had Adam’s best interest at heart. “Corinne made it all up. She was never pregnant.”

The words kept landing like punches, dazing Adam, sapping his resistance, leaving him shaken and confused and ready to take a standing  eight count. He wanted to fight back, grab the guy by the shirt, toss him across the room for insulting his wife like this. But he didn’t for two reasons.

One, there was the whole  dazed-like-taking-punches, sapped- resistance thing.

Two, something about the way the man spoke, something about the guy’s confident tone, the damn conviction in his voice, made Adam start thinking it might be smartest to listen.

“Who are you?” Adam asked. “Does it matter?”

“Yeah, it does.”

“I’m the stranger,” he said. “The stranger with important knowledge. She lied to you, Adam. Corinne.  She was never pregnant. It was all a ruse to get you back.”

Adam shook his head. He swam through, tried to stay rational and calm. “I saw the pregnancy test.”

“Fake.”

“I saw the sonogram.”

“Again fake.” He held up a hand before Adam could say more. “And yes, so was the stomach.  Or should I say stomachs.  Once Corinne started to show, you never saw her naked, right? What did she do, claim some kind of late-night sickness so you wouldn’t have sex? That’s what happens most times.  So when the miscarriage occurs, you can kinda look back on the whole thing and realize the pregnancy was difficult right from the start.”

A booming voice from the other side of the hall called out, “Okay, guys, grab a fresh beer and let’s get this show on the road.” The voice belonged to Tripp Evans, the president of the lacrosse league, a former Madison Avenue ad exec and a pretty good guy. The other dads started to grab aluminum chairs, the kind you use for your kid’s school concert, from a rack and placed them in a circle around the room. Tripp Evans looked over at Adam, spotted the undoubtedly pale expression on his face, and frowned his concern. Adam shook him off and turned back to the stranger.

“Who the hell are you?”

“Think of me as your savior. Or like the friend who just released you from prison.”

“You’re full of crap.”

All conversation had pretty much ended.  The voices were hushed now, the sounds of scraping chairs echoing in the still hall. The fathers were getting their game faces on for the draft. Adam hated this. He wasn’t even supposed to be here—Corinne was. She was the treasurer of the lacrosse board, but her school had changed the scheduling of her teachers’ conference in Atlantic City, and even though this was the biggest day of the year for Cedarfield lacrosse— indeed the main reason Corinne had become so active—Adam had been forced to step in for her.

“You should be thanking me,” the man said. “What are you talking about?”

For the first time, the man smiled. It was, Adam couldn’t help but notice, a kind smile, the smile of a healer, of a man who just wants to do the right thing.

“You’re free,” the stranger said. “You’re a liar.”

“You know better, don’t you, Adam?”

From across the room, Tripp Evans called, “Adam?”

He turned toward them. Everyone was seated now except Adam and the stranger.

“I have to go now,” the stranger whispered.

“But if you really need proof, check your Visa card.  Look for a charge to Novelty Funsy.”

“Wait—”

“One more thing.” The man leaned in close. “If I were you, I’d probably run DNA tests on your two boys.”

Tick, tick, tick . . . ka-boom. “What?”

“I have no evidence on that, but when a woman is willing to lie about something like this, well, it’s a pretty good bet it isn’t her first time.”

And then, with Adam dazed anew by this final accusation, the stranger hurried out the door.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Praise for Missing You

"This is a dive-in, lose-sleep and miss-your-bus-stop reading experience."
— Associated Press

"Missing You is another winner in Coben's stack of winners."
— Huffington Post

"Coben's story twists tight: It will leave you eyeing your computer, wondering what horrors might awair the next time you log on."
People

"Once again, Coben has expertly constructed and then dismantled a time bomb of a plot."
—Booklist

"Once again, Coben has brilliantly used a current trend, in this case Internet dating, to create a can't-put-it-down thriller."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Coben... has written another twisty ripped-from-the-headlines page-turning stand-alone that could be his best yet."
Library Journal (starred review)

"The setup is irresistible, the twists generously piled on, and the climax suitably pulse-pounding..." 
Kirkus Reviews

Meet the Author

With over 70 million books in print worldwide, Harlan Coben is the internationally bestselling author of more than twenty-five previous novels. His last nine consecutive novels have all debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and lists around the world. His books are published in 43 languages around the globe and have been number one bestsellers in over a dozen countries.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Ridgewood, New Jersey
Date of Birth:
January 4, 1962
Place of Birth:
Newark, New Jersey
Education:
B.A. in political science, Amherst College, 1984
Website:
http://www.harlancoben.com

Customer Reviews

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The Stranger 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 149 reviews.
goskins21 More than 1 year ago
Excellent! Spent the whole day reading...couldn't put it down!  Twists and turns galore.  Can't wait for he next one!!
tpolen More than 1 year ago
Has Harlan Coben ever written a bad book?  Admittedly, I've only read about 98% of them but, personally, his books have always grabbed me from the first page, the journey full of twists, turns, and misdirection and, just when I think I have it all figured out, I'm proven wrong.  Wide awake in the middle of the night, I picked up where I'd left off and, although I grew tired, fought sleep and finished this book at 4am.  And it was entirely worth the loss of sleep. This book has many layers and subplots that are seamlessly and masterfully woven into the storyline, making it near impossible to put down.  The characters are well-rounded and seemed to come alive for me. One thing that didn't ring true for me was the relationship between Adam and Hannah.  At times, he seemed resentful of the direction their married life had taken, but at others, he acted as if he couldn't live without her, although it certainly didn't take away from my enjoyment of this book. If you're a Coben fan, don't miss this one.  If you're contemplating reading Coben, this is a good place to start, but I always recommend his Myron Bolitar books (my personal favs) as well.   I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
SpeedSD More than 1 year ago
GREAT READ! I have never read anything by Harlan Coben before picking this book up. Apparently, I have been missing out! This book was fantastic! Lots of twists and turns. It was truly a cannot-put-down book! I had to see what would happen next! Just when I thought I had it figured out, BAM! The author give you another shot to the gut with some other twist! Anyway, if you like that kind of mystery, this was a great one. I think anyone up for a great suspenseful who-dunnit would enjoy this book! I am off to find more from this author right now. Thanx Mr. Coben for my first look into that great mind of yours. Hope all of your reads are this good! -- SPeeD
sySD More than 1 year ago
This book is so good and spot on to the current times and the internet --its scary! The story will keep you turning those pages because you want to see how this one turns out.....and it is unbelievable! Harlan Coben writes a wickly wonderful book and I try to savor the moments when I am reading it as he is publishing about once a year now....
Caroles_Random_Life More than 1 year ago
4.5 Stars! I have been a fan of Harlan Coben for a very long time. I have read almost every book that he has published and I have been lucky enough to meet him twice. I am always eager to get my hands on any new book that has his name on the cover. I realize that I expect a lot out of a Harlan Coben book. I not only expect not only to be entertained but to be completely sucked into the story having no idea what twists will happen next. This book was trademark Harlan Coben and was full of twists and turns and I found myself guessing until the very end. Adam is living the dream. He is a married father of two boys and works as a lawyer. Adam's life is turned upside down by The Stranger. Adam doesn't know who The Stranger is but the things that this man tells hims makes him doubt the trust that he has in his wife, Corinne. Everything about his life suddenly feels threatened and he confronts his wife with what he has learned. Corinne leaves telling Adam that she needs some time through a text message. As you would expect in a Harlan Coben book, this book takes a few turns and at times it is hard to see how everything is going to come together. Several different storylines play out during this book each one have a role in the final outcome. I didn't fall in love with Adam during this story but I found myself imagining what I would do if I were in his situation. I really liked Johanna's character. She seemed to be able to see what was really going on and worked to solve the problem. This was a book that I had a very hard time putting down. I read it every chance that I got and would have finished it in a single day if I hadn't need to go to my daughter's band concert. The pacing of the story was perfect. Coben is a master at keeping a reader completely interested in the story and his writing was fantastic. I did think that some of the things that happened in this story were a bit far fetched but nothing was completely out of the realm of possibility. My one issue with this book was the ending. I am still not completely sold on how this story came to a conclusion. In that final dramatic scene, I am not sure that all of the characters acted in a manner consistent with the rest of the story. More than anything the ending left me wondering about whether or not they would have behaved as they did. I definitely found myself surprised by the end and that is a very good thing. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a fast paced mystery with lots of twists and turns. If you have not yet read a Harlan Coben book, please do yourself a favor and pick one up as soon as possible. I cannot recommend this author enough.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a newcomer to Harlan Coben and picked this up at my local Barnes and Noble on a whim. I'm very glad I did! It captured my attention from the beginning and held it all the way through.
yffum More than 1 year ago
I was in a place where I needed to escape what was happening around me. It helped
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
Dollycas’s Thoughts I get so excited when a new Harlan Coben thriller is about to be released. I drop everything and read it as soon as it arrives. This one had a very different feel right from the start but like all of his other books I started reading and just couldn’t stop. I had to break it up over 2 evenings because my eyes just wouldn’t stay open but if my body had let me I would have finished the whole thing all in one sitting. “The Stranger” visits normal everyday people that could have been me or my friends or neighbors. Anyone who is affected by a secret someone close to us is keeping. Adam’s wife, Corinne, had a secret and after the stranger reveals it to him his life is never going to be the same. The stranger also visits other throughout the story with secrets too, changing their lives. What appeared to be a pretty straight forward story quickly twists and turns. Exactly what I expect from Mr. Coben. I found myself completely enthralled by this story, you may even say mesmerized. At first I thought Corinne’s secret was hurtful but not life shattering. Yes, the couple’s trust had been broken, but I thought a strong marriage would survive it. But the more Adam’s story continued and the plot started to play out I saw the author’s writing style start to shine and draw us in deeper. It is a story that has many layers. This is not you typical nail biting thriller, but more a mystery with thrilling and suspense filled moments. I have been impressed with every Harlan Coben novel. I can’t say that is my favorite Harlan Coben book, Caught still holds that spot, but frankly all of his stories rate 5 stars to me. They all grab a hold of you and don’t let go. If you a are a new fan or an old fan this book should be on your “Can’t Wait To Read” list!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Harlan Coben books. This was great, a little unnerving. Gets a little off with so many characters towards the end but I thought it was great.
Klapaucjusz More than 1 year ago
This book is about the life of the average suburban family being disrupted by a message delivered by a stranger. It is a very good thriller that keeps reader engaged from the beginning to the end. However I liked the earlier Coben’s books more that this one. The ending seems a little forced and rushed up and it is really difficult to like the main character, Adam. He sometimes seems a little robotic and wooden.
AuntBea94 More than 1 year ago
I love Mr. Coben's books but this one was a sad disappointment. Definitely the least enjoyable of all of his published works. There was too many characters and the plot was this at best. But everyone has a flop occasionally so I shall patiently wait for Mr. Coben's next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Normally I love Harlan books, but this one is good, not great. I usually can't put his books down until I am done. I have been reading this one on and off for a couple of weeks. It has twists and turns and is interesting. I think personally, I am just not vested in the characters and for me that is important.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree with the other negative reviewers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting mostly hate it when intelligent people do dumb things lets hide behind the chain saws dumb things -
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I usually love Harlan Coben's books, but this one was confusing, disjointed and hard to believe. Really, the premise bordered on the ridiculous. Save your money!
Anonymous 5 months ago
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Anonymous 8 months ago
I grabbed this book off the Top 20 shelf in the airport. At the time I had never heard of Mr. Coben. The woman working the register said she loved this book. Turns out she hit the nail on the head. I haven't stopped reading Coben novels since. This book introduced me to a master of storytelling.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Classic Harlan Coben. Worth the read definitely .
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Quick and twisty!
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gloriafeit More than 1 year ago
From the publisher – no spoilers here: “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.” He introduces himself thusly: “I’m the stranger. The stranger with important knowledge,” or “the stranger who reveals truth.” And proceeds to destroy, or end, lives with his information, whatever it is, different in each instance. This scene is repeated in several of those anonymous settings mentioned above, each time devastating the person on the receiving end. (For a different take, the author offers a [very apt] quote from T.S. Eliot: “Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger. Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions. There is one who remembers the way to your door: Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.” Once the Stranger imparts his information to his mostly unwilling listener, there is no way one can put that genie back in the bottle, or unring that bell, or whatever other cliché one may choose. The unwavering theme of the novel is “secrets and lies,” and once exposed, there is no going back. As one character says to another: “How far would you go to protect your family? You’d never hurt anyone, I’d never hurt anyone. But if someone threatens your family, if it means saving your child . . .” But we are reminded that “People will do anything to keep their secrets. Even kill.” The name of the stranger is not revealed to the reader until more than half-way through the book. In trademark Coben fashion, the author has given us another suspense-filled novel. It would appear that Dutton is bringing out the author’s next thriller, “Fool Me Once,” on March 22, 2016, and I for one can’t wait! Highly recommended.