Can We Talk About Harlen Coben’s The Stranger Now?

Mandatory Spoiler Warning

 The following post will discuss events in ‘The Stranger.’ I will not disclose the ending, but other events are fair game and, let’s face it, too good not to discuss.


Most people took huge gulps of the series once it went live on January 30, while life made me take the series in sips. I wrote about the book in August after hearing, and don’t act surprised, Richard Armitage attached as one of the leads. Like any book adaptation, I expected changes beyond swapping Cedarfield, New Jersy, for Manchester England. Whenever something gets adapted, comparing a visual and written medium always happens and sometimes erupts into online arguments. I have seen too many of the latter to count, and the unwanted energy in the book-versus-movie-or-tv show can wean the world out of fossil fuels.

Book adaptions are a tricky thing, and I owe John Irving a debt of gratitude for writing his memoir ‘My Movie Business.’ This short memoir chronicled the effort to make ‘Cider House Rules’ for the big screen as well as adaptions of his other works like ‘The World According to Garp.’ From multiple directors to choices of what scenes to include, exclude, or redo for the screen, an adaptation rarely takes a straight-forward path. Some authors, Stephen King, comes to mind, have issues with adaptations now considered classics like ‘The Shining.’ E.L. James took iron control of the movie version of 50 Shadesto the point any potential improvement over the book, and Samantha Taylor-Johnson had the directorial chops to improve that book, made the movie as laughable as the book.

Great, Fatimainteresting, but what about ‘The Stranger?’ Well, reader, Danny Brocklehurst’s adaptation managed to keep the twisty plot threads in places, weave a few new ones, enabling the 8-part series to be its own thing, a visual novel defying the expectations of this reader. I don’t want to pull it apart; only point out some highlights on my first  (second, now doing a third) viewing.

You Can’t Take New Jersey Out Of ‘The Stranger’ Completely

Readers immediately knew the setting marked the first significant change from the book to the screen. The well-kept suburbs of Cedarfield, New Jersey, will swap for the just-as-well-kept burbs of Manchester England. Coben set his thrillers in the ‘burbs.’ the place where people believe they’re living the dream but no amount of brand name appliances can mask people’s gray areas within their psyche. Let’s face it, nobody can do repressing gray areas like the Brits, even well off ones without cravats.

Cedarfield now becomes the name of the sports club and soccer the sport at the centre of family life, not lacrosse. (Really? Lacrosse?) However, nothing says New Jersey like THE BOSS. (It seemed right to capitalize it.) Adam Price sings the opening lines of ‘Dancing in the Dark’ while his sons chide his choice of crap, old music. After Adam says ‘strike two’ to his Ryan, the boy protesting ‘crap’ as a non-swear word, I said to the tv ‘you called THE BOSS crap, now go to your room young man.’

Nobody disses THE BOSS.

And, yes, Richard Armitage singing those lines made me swoon and wish the movie ‘Midlife Crisis’ got made.

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