Source: Review copy
Publication: 9 July 2019 from Orion
YOU WILL BECOME EACH ONE.
YOUR PHONE RINGS.
A STRANGER HAS KIDNAPPED YOUR CHILD.
TO FREE THEM YOU MUST ABDUCT SOMEONE ELSE’S CHILD.
YOUR CHILD WILL BE RELEASED WHEN YOUR VICTIM’S PARENTS KIDNAP ANOTHER CHILD.
IF ANY OF THESE THINGS DON’T HAPPEN:YOUR CHILD WILL BE KILLED.
YOU ARE NOW PART OF THE CHAIN
I have loved Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy books ever since my sister, a discerning reader, introduced me to them. I knew that McKinty had been looking for a new publisher and so was delighted when I heard he had a new book coming out. This time we are a world away from Belfast and ‘The Troubles’. (As an aside, have you ever noticed that the British seldom go to war? We have questions, troubles, crises, but we try hard not to ever suggest that we’re actually fighting and killing people).
I digress. Adrian McKinty’s The Chain is based on a simple but startlingly effective premise; that of the Chain letter turned into a practical, coercive control, money making scheme. It starts so chillingly. A voice you do not know, telling you your child has been kidnapped and that to get her back, you need to kidnap someone else’s child.
This way the Chain has a hold on you, because until you do what is demanded, your child stays kidnapped and so does the child of the woman who called you.
Rachel Klein is a divorced single mother, with a teenage daughter, Kylie, living on Plum Island, Massachusetts. Undergoing treatment for breast cancer, Rachel is pre-occupied with her recent blood work results which don’t appear to be too promising.
Then Rachel gets a call out of the blue from a stranger telling her that her daughter has been taken and that she is now part of The Chain; a chain that binds her tightly and one that if she looks like being a weak link, will not hesitate to deal with her harshly. “Number one: you are not the first and you will certainly not be the last. Number two: remember, it’s not about the money—it’s about The Chain.”
Even if Rachel finds the ransom money, the things she is being asked to do go against everything she believes in as a mother; yet to protect her own child, what wouldn’t she do?
It is this chilling predicament that is at the heart of McKinty’s riveting and propulsive book. He is excellent at capturing the tension and the psychological fall out that stems from following through on this scenario. We can only watch, horrified as Rachel turns into a hell hound, ready to bite and snarl at her unknown master’s bidding, all to ensure her child’s safe return.
Yet the price Rachel and Kylie pay for being part of the Chain where they are forever monitored and never free is hugely destructive. McKinty, I know, can write the best action thrillers, but this is all that and so much more.
The Chain is a devastating psychological thriller which follows through on its early promise to bring its characters to the brink of an abyss where either fight or total submission are the only options. It’s all too easy to put oneself in Rachel’s position and imagine the hell that she goes through and no-one wants to contemplate the kind of choices she has to make.
McKinty knows how to draw a chilling and ruthless antagonist and the whole book is perfectly pitched to evoke a high heartbeat rate and an adrenaline-fuelled response to an exciting read.
Verdict. Heart-pounding; tense and chilling. A perfect execution of a fabulous high concept premise, flawlessly delivered.
Adrian McKinty is a crime novelist from Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. He grew up during the Troubles of the 1970s and 1980s. His father was a boilermaker and ship’s engineer and his mother a secretary. Adrian went to Oxford University on a full scholarship to study philosophy before emigrating to the United States to become a high school English teacher. His books have won the Edgar Award, the Ned Kelly Award, the Anthony Award, the Barry Award and have been translated into over 20 languages. Adrian is a reviewer and critic for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Irish Times and The Guardian. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.