The Stranger Review: A Binge-Worthy UK Thriller

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The Stranger’s binge-ability works greatly in its favour, because it keeps you too busy to reflect in any depth on what you’re seeing. The ‘hang on, what an enormous contrivance’ thoughts won’t arrive until you’ve rushed through the lot, and by that point, you won’t be thinking about it much at all. It’ll just leave you fed and full, like a tasty M&S carbonara.

The highlights are in the cast. Hannibal’s Richard Armitage is a strong lead as lawyer and family man Adam Price, while Happy Valley’s Siobhan Finneran is so capable and likeable as detective DS Johanna Griffin that if you were ever murdered, you’d want her as lead investigator in your case. The pair of them easily cushion any jolts over bumpy dialogue.

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The Stranger herself (gender-swapped from the book at Coben’s behest) is played by Black Mirror’s Hannah John Kamen. She wreaks havoc around the unspecified Northern town (it’s Stockport), unearthing shameful acts and confronting people with realities they don’t want to face. Some lies even come out without her involvement, as if her mere presence in the local area is a kind of laxative for difficult-to-pass truths.

Those three are joined by Stephen Rea (Counterpart, The Crying Game) as a curmudgeonly former police officer whose legal battle Adam is fighting, Dervla Kirwan (Strangers, Ballykissangel) as Adam’s wife Corinne, Anthony Head (The Split, Merlin) as a local kingpin property developer, neighbour and colleague Shaun Dooley (Broadchurch, Gentleman Jack), Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous) as a local café owner, and Paul Kaye (Vera, After Life). There are a dozen other characters, almost all with their own storylines and revelations on top of that lot. Underpopulated this series isn’t.

Quite the opposite – it’s stuffed with character and incident. Like colourful pins on a whiteboard encircled by multiple threads, almost everybody we meet comes with a mystery to solve. Adam and Corinne’s eldest son Thomas (Jacob Dudman) and his schoolfriends are part of a parallel investigation that weaves in and out of the main story. The teen plot isn’t acted with many shades of light and dark, but it keeps things moving.

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