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Review: The Stranger, by Harlan Coben

There is a stranger who walks up to people and tells them a secret. He then informs them that if they pay him some money, the secret remains a secret. If not, the world will know whatever it is they have kept hidden. The stranger feels it is a “win-win” situation. On the one hand, he may receive some money. On the other, the secret is out, the air is cleared and the world is a better place.
The stranger is one member of a group of people with very good computer skills and they spend their lives ferreting out the information they need to make a comfortable living. Fairly simple, from their perspective.
Not so simple for the people whose lives they a messing with. There’s the woman who is told that her daughter is very probably financing her college education through her involvement in an escort service Web site. And there’s the fat cat financier who has a big deal coming up and does not want anyone to know he subscribes to that same Web site service.
Coben has gone to great lengths to construct a novel with several interweaving plot lines. It all starts with Adam Price being told about his wife’s fake pregnancy. His wife immediately disappears. Price’s search for her provides the impetus for the gradual uncovering of all the evil machinations that appear to be connected to his wife’s uncharacteristic fleeing the scene.
It’s sort of a strange premise for a mystery novel, but Coben makes it work. All the threads come together and there’s even a surprise ending.
Readers who prefer something with a straight ahead story line might look to The Night Ranger by Alex Berenson. Some young people helping out with refugees in Africa are kidnapped and retired CIA hotshot John Wells winds up being the man who goes out to rescue them.
Wells is tough, experienced and filled with dogged determination. He figures things out, follows the clues and takes no prisoners.
There are some twists and turns, but just enough to make things interesting. Good book.

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