Review: The Stranger

Hannah John-Kamen and Richard Armitage in The Stranger

The Stranger is a new Harlan Coben mystery thriller on Netflix. The story is set in motion when a young woman calling herself The Stranger (Hannah John-Kamen) reveals secrets to several people living in Manchester, England.

The Stranger is on a mission to make sure people know the truth about their lives, their family’s lives, everyone’s secrets, even everyone’s DNA. She causes a series of dangerous, desperate events.

With any Harlan Coben series, you need a huge piece of butcher paper and a marker to draw out the characters and the spider web of connections between them to keep track of the plot. I’ll attempt to explain the basics, spoiler free, using mere words.

Do I know you?

Adam Price (Richard Armitage) is the central character. The Stranger tells him his wife Corrine Price (Dervia Kirwan) faked a pregnancy a couple of years ago. She has an envelope containing proof.

Dervia Kirwan in The Stranger
That’s some funny business, Corrine.

When Adam confronts Corrine, she doesn’t deny it. She says there was more involved than just that. Then she disappears. Adam spends the remainder of the 8 episodes searching for her.

Jacob Dudman in The Stranger
Tom and his friends investigated their own case while he helped search for his missing mom.

Adam’s son Thomas (Jacob Dudman) was involved in a wild party in the woods. His friends Mike Tripp (Brandon Fellows) and Daisy Hoy (Ella-Rae Smith) were there, too. Crazy stuff that ends the night bring the involvement of the police.

Siobhan Finneran and Kadiff Kirwan in The Stranger
Bring in the police, quick!

The cops come into the story investigating the teens, but they are soon involved in murder and missing persons investigations as well. Lots of stories run parallel and interweave their way to the final resolution.

DS Johanna Griffin (Siobhan Finneran) and DC Wesley Ross (Kadiff Kirwan) are on the teen situation, and later work the more serious cases as well. When there’s a murder, the cop John Katz (Paul Kaye) is also assigned.

The Price family lives across the street from the Tripp family. Doug Tripp (Shaun Dooley) and his kids are involved in a local football club. So were the Price boys. Corrine was the treasurer for the club and handled quite a lot of money. About the same time Corrine went missing, a lot of football club money was also discovered missing.

Jennifer Saunders in The Stranger
Heidi wanted nothing more than a long vacation with her friend Johanna.

Heidi Doyle (Jennifer Saunders) is the first murder victim to be discovered. She’s DS Johanna Griffin best friend. Heidi just received an envelope from the stranger full of truth about her daughter Kimberley (Callie Cooke).

Another story running alongside these is the case of the holdout homeowner, Martin Killane (Stephen Rea). A big developer wanted to raze his house to build expensive new homes. Martin wasn’t selling. Adam Price was his lawyer. Adam’s father, Ed Price (Anthony Head), was the greedy developer.

Mysterious goings on in the housing case included the fact that Martin Killane was a former cop turned P.I. who was helping Adam figure out who the stranger was and where Corrine might be. Although knocking down his home seemed unrelated to everything else going on, it wasn’t.

Richard Armitage in The Stranger
A desperate husband and father will do all sorts of things for his family.

Those were the basic mystery plotlines. While each case moved along and the bodies stacked up, more and more connections between all the players were discovered. By the time the pieces fit and the killers were known it was all over.

Hannah John-Kamen in The Stranger
Don’t walk away so fast!

I thought the ending disappointed. The decisions the characters made at the end were not believable. It was too “happy ending” for the tense and suspenseful drama that had gone before. I didn’t think the kind of justice and revenge that dominated the final decisions were in keeping with the characters’ personalities. Also, I thought the stranger should be more integrated into the story by the end, even after all the mayhem she caused revealing secrets.

One thing about the ending that did work with the theme was after all the secrets were uncovered, there were a series of new secrets to be kept.

My quibbles about the ending aside, this is a well plotted and well acted mystery that will engage mystery lovers every second of the way. Daniel O’Hara and Hannah Quinn shared the directing duties. Harlan Coben’s daughter Charlotte Coben wrote one of the episodes.

the Stranger poster

Take a look at the teaser trailer.

How about it Harlan Coben fans? What did you think of this mystery series? Did you catch Harlan Coben’s cameo appearance?

10 thoughts on “Review: The Stranger”

  1. I have seen more than one mystery based on a book by Harlan Coben. They are not always great. The mystery called No Second Chance is really low quality. But I have to say that this mystery is much better.

    The plot is much better. The structure is much better.

    The ending may be criticized. It is not perfect, but quite good. 4 of 5 stars.

  2. Not a Coben fan at all, I came to the series as a fan of Richard Armitage. Like you said, the multiple mysteries of the series completely drew me in, and against better judgment I found myself bingeing the show in one go. (Which for me says much about its quality, the lead actor aside.) Cliffhangers, twists and turns. I enjoyed all that, not least because the climax of the piece really surprised me. As did the ending. I can see why you might find that disappointing – there was a slight feeling of anti-climax in those very final minutes, justice not served, a little bit too happy etc? However, I wonder whether the ending was deliberately left somewhat open, especially where the Stranger herself is concerned? Room for a continuation in another season?

  3. christopher a swaby

    i enjoyed the mystery and working through it. i enjoyed that the secrets had secrets. some i figured out by the casting itself – watch enough English tv and you know there is type casting there as there is here. the frustrating thing to me (sometimes so frustrating i yelled at the tv) was that supposedly smart people made so many choices that made no sense for them. i get that we have to suspend disbelief and of course there has be be drama/tension created but it seems to me that a mystery can be developed without people making ridiculous choices. anyway, i enjoyed the show. i didnt get the Corben cameo. Netflix apparently has signed a contract with him for 15 movies/miniseries.

  4. I loved the shown.. until the last 15 minutes. I normally see 1 episode per day and I saw 4 in a row (Neflix told me off!!). I agree, the final is not the best one, it does not fit the rest of the serie. I also think a second serie is the reason..

  5. My biggest problem with the show is that Corinne faked a pregnancy because she saw another woman do it and it looked fun??? I was waiting for a big explanation to come because she said there’s ‘so much more to it’. But there wasn’t any more to it??? It just fizzled out. For a moment I thought it would be connected to her wanting to hurt her husband for having an affair but that fizzled out too. And there was no connection to the overall story with the other woman who faked a pregnancy. Just an anticlimactic mysterious fight between two husbands. It honestly felt like the writer forgot that’s how they kicked off the plot and tried to squeeze it back in at the end.

      1. I think you are right. She faked the pregnancy to keep him from leaving her. And (in the drama) it worked. The question is: would this work in the real world? Is it realistic? Perhaps.

        It can be done when you are dealing with strangers and acquaintances; even with friends. But can a woman do it when she is dealing with her husband in the bedroom?

        Not likely!

        During the fake pregnancy, the woman must see a doctor to have an ultra sound scanning. What happens when the husband wants to join her for this? A modern husband will not miss an appointment like this!

        The story about the fake pregnancy shows that the plot is not perfect. There are loose ends which are never explained.

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