Review: Candy from a Stranger by Daryl Buckner

Publication Date: June 29, 2015

Ben Cain's eight year-old son, Lucas, has been kidnapped. The police have had no leads and have been little help with their investigation.

Deciding that he needs to do more, Ben takes the case into his own hands and embarks on the search to find the man who kidnapped his son and get his revenge.

But with everyone saying that he's crazy, Ben begins to wonder if he really plays a bigger role in his son's disappearance than he originally thought. Then the police start closing in on him just as he is about to make a major discovery.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The title was one of the first things that caught my eye, and it became more interesting to me when I read the premise. I was curious about how Ben Cain would handle things.

I have to say, I was kind of disappointed with the beginning. It was a lot slower than I had expected and didn't start where I had thought it would. It actually started after Ben's son was taken and he has already started his mission to find the kidnapper. I had actually hoped that it would have started with his son being taken, and taking us from there, but it didn't.

I thought that Ben's mission was understandable in the beginning, with him grieving over the disappearance of his son and how it has affected his life. I could see why he felt like he had to take the case into his own hands and go after the kidnapper himself. But the further I got in the book, the less I understood. It didn't feel entirely realistic to me. The police were hardly caring or capable of actually doing their job, the investigation was ridiculous, other characters were more than strange, and Ben started to become more and more dislikable.

The mission that Ben was on became so out of control and unbelievable that I had a hard time taking the story seriously. In fact, it was so unrealistic to me that if I ever met someone who behaved like Ben did, I would have figured out immediately that something was wrong and possibly called the police. Not that the police were helpful in the book because all they did was apparently not investigate the kidnapping and just tell Ben that there was a procedure they had to follow and that they didn't really have any leads or clues. They refused to listen to Ben, which I understood more as the book went along because the guy is so freaking annoying and paranoid about everything. An acorn could fall from a tree and he'd figure that it had something to do with his son's disappearance.

Closer to the midpoint of the book and in the chapters around it, I began to lose interest. I still wanted to find out who the kidnapper was and why they were taking children, but I didn't really care about Ben and his mission anymore. It got out of hand and he was being such a ridiculous adult, I had a hard time remembering that he was once a teacher. And the fact that his actions were completely justified in his mind and seemingly by a few other characters as well just made me really frustrated.

Something this book did, which I know several other authors do as well, is to tell parts of the story from the antagonist's point of view. It's been done in Never Smile at StrangersHuntress MoonFollow the Leader, and several other books that I've read and reviewed here. The concept isn't foreign to me at all, and I think that if that POV is well written, then it does add a lot to the book, which is the case for the three that I linked above. However, with this book, I felt like that POV kind of fell flat. There would be just enough to grab my interest and wonder why the kidnapper was acting and talking like that, and then it would switch back to Ben's POV. Each time the kidnapper talked, I felt like it was a hit or miss. Sometimes it would add to the plot, other times it didn't feel helpful at all.

When the kidnapper was revealed, I wasn't surprised at all. There was so much foreshadowing in that area and it didn't feel exciting. There wasn't this big reveal that changes the direction of the story, an unexpected twist that throws you off, or even a sudden change of events that made you wonder if they had the wrong person. Nope, it was just there, and the book continued for another 1/3 - 1/4.

The ending was expected. Slightly action-packed, but still expected. Only one thing surprised me, which was how things were wrapped up with the investigation. I thought it was stupid and quite unrealistic because of how the characters acted. It didn't make a whole lot of sense, but it was somehow the only way that the book could end.

Then there was the epilogue...oh gosh if that was the basis for another book or something, it would be so darn predictable. I totally saw that coming. But at the same time, the epilogue wasn't very clear.

I didn't like Ben. It didn't take me long to realize that. All it took were the first few chapters and I was so over his behavior. It wasn't that I didn't feel bad for him, I really did feel sorry for the situation he was in and I could understand his frustration with the police when it seemed like they weren't doing their job. In the beginning, I even thought that his mission was quite a good idea, especially if the authorities weren't going to investigate properly. But then he became more and more unacceptable with his behavior, even if he was grieving over the disappearance of his son. I still didn't think that gave him the right to act the way he did and become so obsessed that he was on the verge of actual madness.

It was only an okay book for me, so it's just a 3 star rating. I was mostly annoyed by Ben Cain, but the story itself is actually pretty good. If you can pull through a more slow-paced book like this, I would say to pick it up and try it.

Thank you to NetGalley for hosting this on your site. Thank you also to Sparkling Books Limited for approving my request to read this in exchange for an honest review.

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