Book Summary and Analysis |

Fiction | Mystery and Crime

Summary and Critique of

Harlan Coben’s

The Stranger

by J.B. Feliciton

Copyright©2016 J.B. Feliciton. All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of the author.

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Harlan Coben’s The Stranger is a psychological thriller. The story, which is set in a small suburban town, relies on the premise that things are not what they seem and that some people’s comfortable, proper and well-regarded lives are only fairy tales. With the “help” of the Stranger, Adam Price, who is the leading character of Coben’s book, learns that the truth sometimes can be more harmful than the deception.

Hope is one of the themes throughout the novel. Coben also brings together two aspects of the modern America: computer hacking and affluent suburbia residents who allegedly live the American Dream. He interweaves these two facets, creating a fearsome plot with a few antiheroes and a few victims who are not that innocent after all.




Harlan Coben was born in Newark, New Jersey, and he still lives in New Jersey. He is married to his college sweetheart, Anne Armstrong-Coben, who is a pediatrician. They have four children and they live in a nice suburban house.

Coben was 26 years old when his first novel was published. He wrote two stand-alone thrillers, Play Dead and Miracle Cure, as well as the popular Myron Bolitar series. His standalone novel, Tell No One, became highly popular in 2001. In 2006, the novel was turned into the French thriller that won the Lumiere (French Golden Globe) for best picture. It was also nominated for nine Cesars (French Oscar), and it won four awards.

Coben has won the Edgar Award, the Shamus Award, and the Anthony Award. In fact, he is the first author who won all three awards. His books have been published in more than 40 languages around the planet and they frequently appear on the New York Times bestseller list. Coben also writes a television drama, “The Five,” in the UK, which depicts a group of friends who are distressed by the disappearance of their friend about twenty years earlier.

Coben’s novel, The Stranger, is a psychological thriller. Moreover, it is a literary work that probes the idea of the American Dream. The novel begins with the encounter between Adam Price and the Stranger. Adam is an attorney who is married to Corinne, a schoolteacher. Adam, Corinne and their two sons live a seemingly happy life in Cedarfield, New Jersey. The Stranger is the person who exposes other people’s secrets, and he is not concerned with the consequences of his actions.

One day, the Stranger approaches Adam at an American Legion Hall. He tells Adam that his wife faked a pregnancy. The stranger also explains how to verify if what he is saying is true. When Adam confronts Corinne, her response leaves him baffled. On the next day, she disappears. She sends him only one text message asking him not to contact her.

When Adam begins the search for his wife, he encounters something more dangerous than his wife’s deception. Adam also tries to find the stranger and understand the underlying cause of Corinne’s disappearance. As he seeks and finds new clues, the situation becomes even more perplexing and people are killed.

Harlan Coben’s The Stranger draws the reader’s interest with its opening lines in which the stranger’s words destroy Adam’s illusion about his ‘normal’ suburban life. After Adam’s wife disappears, Adam follows different leads with the hope of finding his wife and understanding what his real life looks like.

Adam repeatedly runs into dead ends, finding new clues that lead his search in new directions. At one moment, it seems that Corinne has abandoned her family and stolen money from the lacrosse team. Later, the story depicts Corinne as an innocent person and a victim of someone’s foul play and agenda.

As the story presents the changing view of Corinne’s intents and plans, the reader can relate to Adam’s emotional roller-coaster as he tries to figure out if his wife has been dishonest with him from the beginning. Each chapter heightens the suspense and tension, bringing the reader to the final chapter with its shocking final twist.

Coben masterfully builds the suspense by intertwining unexpected plot twists and surprise endings. As the plot develops, it puzzles the reader with complexities and plentiful details that are brought together in the end, offering a dramatic resolution of the mystery.


Character List


The Stranger (Chris Taylor) ->>> the head of the blackmailing organization

Adam Price ->>> former prosecuting attorney

Corinne Price ->>> Adam’s wife, who is a school teacher

Thomas Price –>>> Adam and Corinne’s oldest son

Ryan Price –>>> Adam and Corinne’s youngest son

Suzanne Hope –>>> Corinne’s friend and victim of the Stranger

Bob “Gaston” Baime –>>> lacrosse head coach

Tripp Evans –>>> president of the youth lacrosse league

Len Gilman –>>> local police chief

Heidi Dann –>>> victim of the Stranger

Marty Dann –>>> Heidi’s husband

Kimberly Dann –>>> Heidi’s daughter

Police Chief Johanna Griffin –>>> Heidi’s friend and investigator into her murder

Ingrid Prisby –>>> The Stranger’s partner

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Michael Rinsky –>>> Adam’s client

Rick Gusherowski –>>> the defendant in the case against Michael Rinsky

John Kuntz –>>> retired NYPD detective and victim of the Stranger

Michaela Siegel –>>> victim of the Stranger

Dan Molino –>>> victim of the Stranger

Kenny Molino –>>> Dan’s son

Norbert Pendergast –>>> Johanna’s rookie partner

Sally Perryman –>>> Adam’s former business associate

Kristin Hoy –>>> Corinne’s friend and co-worker

Andy Gribbel –>>> Adam’s paralegal

Eduardo –>>> member of the Stranger’s blackmailing organization

Gabrielle Dunbar –>>> member of the blackmailing organization

Merton Sules–>>> member of the blackmailing organization

Cal Gottesman –>>> father to one of Thomas’ lacrosse teammates

Becky Evans –>>> Tripp’s wife

Eunice Rinsky –>>> Michael’s wife

Barb Kuntz –>>> John’s wife

Robby Kuntz –>>> John & Barb’s son

John Bonner –>>>guy who guards the American Legion Hall parking lot

Larry Powers –>>> John Kuntz’s business partner

Laurie Powers –>>> Larry’s wife


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