‘The Stranger Game’ Is Familiar and Terrifying [REVIEW]


Following others isn’t something people are just doing online anymore in Peter Gadol’s The Stranger Game. (Photo by Parth Patel, Flickr)

When a woman’s boyfriend vanishes, she starts looking for clues to his whereabouts in the most peculiar of places as she gets caught up in a voyeuristic new pastime in Peter Gadol’s The Stranger Game, an eerie new novel that will have you looking over your shoulder from now on.


Hanover Square Press

Rebecca and Ezra don’t exactly have a committed relationship. Still, when he disappears, warning bells go off in her mind and have her contacting the police. The only problem is, they don’t particularly care. They figure he’s simply playing the stranger game, the latest craze that has folks following total strangers like they would on social media, only in real life.

Not sure she believes the cops, but hopeful that she might be able to track Ezra down on her own, Rebecca starts to play the game herself. As she does, she finds herself picking people at random, making up stories about their lives as she watches individuals cross paths with one another throughout their day. She’s cautious not to get involved with anyone, but it is easier said than done as the game begins to overwhelm her life, leading her through the looking glass into a world she’s never known. Will she find Ezra via the game? Or is she destined to lose her own identity as she becomes consumed by the fascinating world of the game?

The Stranger Game is one of those novels that is difficult to define. In some ways, it reminds me of all those college writing workshops I participated in where the instructor had us sit and observe people unnoticed and record their conversations in our notebooks in order to learn how to write authentic dialogue. At moments it has that same awkward feel to it, and it is easy to believe that Gadol probably has had his own students complete that same exercise. So in that way, it has a literary feel to it.

Yet it is also a thriller that subtly wraps its fingers around our necks in much the same way Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley books do. It challenges the way we think about our culture and our relationships, as well as the amount of time we spend following total strangers online. Like those books, Gadol takes the ordinary and kisses it with danger, even as he lures us deeper into a world we just can’t seem to shake, one which is both familiar and terrifying.

And as we follow Rebecca through this labyrinthine novel, we also feel how maddeningly confusing it is for her and can’t help but be reminded of how James Stewart’s character felt in Vertigo as he chased Kim Novak all over California to find out just what she was up to. Perhaps these similarities were intentional on the part of the author. Maybe he wants us to feel like we’ve been here before, in an effort to lure us into a false sense of security, even as he tightens the noose around our necks, inch by inch, as he ratchets up the suspense in this entirely new novel that makes us look at our recent online behavior with fresh eyes. Are we too consumed by other people’s lives? Where will the madness end? And by becoming so fascinated with the existence of others, do we lose ourselves in the process? Gadol asks all these questions and more in captivating, unflinching prose that makes this little novel all too timely.

Peter Gadol

Peter Gadol


Peter Gadol is the author of six novels, including Silver LakeLight at Dusk and The Long RainHis work has appeared in journals such as Tin HouseStoryQuarterlyStoryBloom and the Los Angeles Review of Books

He has been nominated for awards from Lambda Literary, PEN and the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association. A former NEA Fellow, Gadol lives in Los Angeles, where he is chair of MFA writing at Otis College of Art and Design.

Visit Peter at his home on the Web at PeterGadol.com. You may also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

By Peter Gadol
304 pgs. Hanover Square Press. $25.99

TLC Book Tours Tour HostPurchase The Stranger Game at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound, and Powell’s.

The Stranger Game is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

One Response to ‘The Stranger Game’ Is Familiar and Terrifying [REVIEW]

  1. Pingback: Peter Gadol, author of THE STRANGER GAME, on tour October 2018 | TLC Book Tours

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