Initial reaction: I really need a night to think about this one, because I'm so totally perplexed at the progression of events, that I don't even know what to say about it. I can't say whether I thought it was good or bad. It was just...odd, man.
If there's one character I feel bad in the scheme of events in this book, it's Nicholas. At least the book gives definitive answers over what happened to him. But that's enough to mess a kid his age up for life.
"Kidnapped for an Hour" is seriously horrifying...in concept at least.
Picture this scenario: you're a woman married to a handsome pediatrician. You have a happy life with said husband and bring a happy, precocious child - a son - into the world. You might be a little on the nervous side of things with respect to motherhood and making sure your son is healthy and happy. You may also be protective of your husband and his affections as well. But even with this - you're still somewhat happy, right? Even if you do have a slightly off-putting control streak.
Things change one evening when you're on the playground conversing with a male friend while your son is playing. The unthinkable happens: your son disappears. Everything falls apart. Gone is your son, gone is your husband, gone is the privileged life you used to know. You're now working a job as grocery store clerk. Your best friend - one of your coworkers - is convinced you need to "hook up" with someone and get over your grief (as if that's easy to do). And by hooking up, she doesn't mean the transient flings you have from time to time - she means something more stable. Your therapist, which you're seeing in the hopes of living a better life - says that you should make more of an effort to have "normal" relationships, to display photos of the child you lost in a "healthy" way, rather than sleeping with news-clippings that are reminiscent of your son's disappearance.
But those aren't your only problems. You have a secret. Since your son's disappearance, you've developed a sort of peculiar preoccupation with the way other people treat their kids. Because you weren't careful enough with your son, you learned the hard way. You choose to let other people know that they can't be as careless with their kids as you were with yours. So in an effort to make amends, you decide to start dressing up in disguises, finding neglectful parents of kids who deserve better treatment and more attention, and you "kidnap" the kids for an hour, only to return them safe and sound. That'll show the parents in their state of fear - because if only they'd kept better watch over their own children, that would've never happened. It's a lesson learned, right? No harm done. So you think. It's not enough you've decided to fall for an investigator, but one too many careless mistakes and you're soon painted as a criminal by the media. But you were doing this for *good,* you say. This isn't the same as the person who kidnapped your son, you also say. You still don't know what happened to your son, and pretty soon you may not have the opportunity to discover one way or the other, as your past crimes and relationships come back to bite you.
And people wonder why Melanie is so screwed over - she's an anti-heroine to the bone. This narrative initially intrigued me because I kept thinking it would be a mother-centered version of a storyline like Dexter Morgan's from Jeff Lindsay's series, or something like "Serial Mom" with a complex anti-heroine who you'd really hate for the things she does, but you can still follow her because of the way the narrative's structured - for dark humor, for social commentary, for the sake of following a contentious protagonist and getting inside their head. I read it in full, and to me it did come across as a decent story, but I had to wade through a lot of murky details to get to the better parts. Sometimes, I wasn't all that happy with how things were presented or the resulting factors to all the questions raised. Though to the story's credit: the definitive threads are actually tied.
Melanie isn't meant to be a championed protagonist - there are things in here that she does which drive me up the wall for moral boundaries, but at least I understood her background and where she was emotionally in pieces of the narrative. That I can commend. The narrative style does have moments of immersion, but I felt there were far too many details told without any kind of suspense. As the narrative went on, this became increasingly a problem. More players start getting introduced. Relationships build. Melanie still can't find her son. She ends up with a bunch of contradictions and accusations in her hand and having to juggle them all.
Then reveals come about her son's whereabouts, who kidnapped him, and also how close investigators are to finding out her *secret*. It takes some really odd (even notably inconceivable, but not completely implausible) turns. Ultimately, the person I ended up feeling the most for wasn't Melanie or her husband, it was Nicholas. Considering what happens to him, it almost would've been better to have had a focal point in the narrative from his viewpoint (unfortunately, that wasn't to be).
The ending, to me, felt too convenient for a narrative of this type, and the way the narrative somewhat dumped all these revelations in the lap of the reader without vetting made the narrative feel less full than it should've been. This is one of those narratives that's likely to be hit or miss, but for me - I was somewhat in the middle because I saw what it was going for.
Ambitious the narrative was for mystery and a darker, even humored slant on a controversial topic. It didn't quite strike the best chord with me, nor completely satiate what I expected the quality of the work to be, but it was worth the attempt.
Overall score: 2.5/5 stars.
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.