By Kealan Patrick Burke
Kindle, Print Length 67 pages
Fear State: Guarded (4/5 Stars) ****
I don't recall how this story found me. I believe I was purchasing another set of books and this came up in the "customers who bought this item also bought" list. I secretly hate the idea of my purchases being monitored. The plus side to it is I wouldn't happen upon gems like this...hence the magic that is that list and Amazon's monitoring. Any-who...the novel is a fairly quick read and my first Kealan Patrick Burke experience. My thoughts are as follows:
Kids give me the creeps. They make for the BEST villains. They are uninhibited by a moral compass or hindered by fear. The embedding of the tools to be rational and considering consequences haven't stuck to their bones completely. I have fifteen years of parenting experience...understanding the thought process of little people is my specialty. At either rate Adam the main child character in Sour Candy creates the perfect persona of childlike innocence masking a benevolent presence that makes your skin quiver. We find Adam in the local Walmart terrorizing his "mother". The novel's protagonist Phil Pendleton happens upon the pair in the candy aisle. The childless semi-bachelor's presence and acknowledgement of the boy sets in motion a series of unfortunate events that lead to a "psuedo-adoption" where Adam becomes Phil's son. Yep, you read that correctly. The "mother" did some weird hocus pocus transferring whatever spell cursed upon her to an unsuspecting Phil. Now, no one Phil encounters will believe him when he explains to them this kid isn't his son. When he returns home from the Walmart not only does he find Adam, but, the child has replaced his live-in girlfriend who for no real explanation won't return his calls and any trace of a history with her has been replaced. All of their pictures together are now of Phil and his "son" complete with a birth story and timeline of a new life. Phil ends up so confused he starts to believe that maybe he imagined his other life. Every attempt he makes to escape the child proves futile and dangerous. The only thing keeping him alive and the child happy is a strange brand of sour candy. Will Phil be the child's prisoner forever?
I loved Kealan's writing. The tension and suspense were wonderful. However, I don't consider this a true "horror" novel. Nothing truly horrific happens. Well, maybe at the very end. But, the build to the ending didn't scare me. Burke's writing is the primary reason I'll give this novel four stars. As an fellow author the writing will win me in the end. The horror fan in me wanted so much more. Which is why I'll advise you to read it for the writing. This concept and threat could be developed more. There are true opportunities to heighten the fear on the page. The child's attempts to mimic human emotions and behavior were the most unsettling for me. That in and of itself won't sustain a horror atmosphere which soured me in the end. Pun intended.