- The Chain.
- Adrian McKinty.
- 352 pages.
- Thriller / Psychological Thriller / Fiction.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
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
This review forms part of the blog tour for The Chain. I’m actually one of the two bloggers opening the tour, an honour! I read the book ages ago (it seems) and I have been eagerly awaiting the chance to share my review with you all and what better way than as part of the blog tour!
My thanks to Tracy Fenton for the tour invite, Adrian McKinty, Orion and to Leanne Oliver who originally sent me the proof copy.
A darkly enticing and minacious blurb lays the foundation, sets the scene for what is to come. The Chain is an insidious book, getting under your skin right from the start with a nightmarish premise that is expertly executed by McKinty. It is fast-paced, frenetic and hurtles along, grabbing you within the first three chapters. Chapter one lays the bait, the lure, chapter two hooks you, reeling you in and chapter three hits you with the harrowing concept of The Chain. From then on you are gripped, McKinty hardly takes his foot off the accelerator and The Chain doesn’t let you go.
The Chain is like a modern-day version of the ‘chain letter‘ from back in the day, where you would receive a letter in the mail threatening you that if you fail to continue with the chain then there will be repercussions for you, horrible acts against you and your well-being, bad luck, violence, or, even death. Only, with The Chain, the threats aren’t idle, they are very real and The Chain itself is a very dangerous and malevolent entity. Before you are even approached, unknowing, you are already a part of The Chain, your child has already been kidnapped. This is where the chain varies to the chain letter of old as the threat, at least, part of it has already been carried out before you receive any contact. If you want your child back alive then you can’t simply opt-out, throw the letter away or burn it, that’s not how it works with The Chain. No, you are in deep trouble, your child is kidnapped, a ransom is required and then, the worst bit, the nightmare, the descent into hell, the start the process of safely getting your child back you need to carry on with The Chain, after paying the ransom you need to select the next link, you need to do the worst thing that a loving parent has to do, kidnap a child of another loving parent. You kidnap the child, you hold the child hostage, the parents of the child need to pay the ransom and then they, in turn, need to select a suitable target, kidnap a child, demand a ransom and only then will your child be released, be returned to you. The Chain has been around for a long time, there are many links and The Chain endures through the fear of the consequences if The Chain is broken, if you don’t pay the ransom, don’t kidnap a child then your own child will die, if your candidate doesn’t pay their ransom or select the next link then you have to kill their child and select another. The fear of what will come to pass keeps The Chain going.
Once you are part of The Chain you remain part of The Chain, when your child is returned you, your child, anyone you involved to aid you in kidnapping another child, forevermore you are now a link in The Chain, there is no escape, it is part of you, you are part of it.
The Chain is ruthless, The Chain is powerful, The Chain is watching, The Chain has a vast reach and The Chain knows. Any attempts to break The Chain, to reveal The Chain to the wider world, accidents happen that aren’t accidents, the deaths of those and their families who tried to break The Chain, who tried to reveal The Chain, they tried, they failed, they died, examples are made of them to deter others, the fear of reprisal, you are intimidated into obeying and The Chain abides, The Chain endures.
There are certain rules that must be adhered to when selecting a candidate, no cops, no journalists, no politicians and no matter what you must not break The Chain, if you do then your child’s life is forfeit, they will die. Remember, it isn’t about the money, it is about The Chain and The Chain must continue.
Rachel O’Neil finds herself as the latest link in The Chain when her thirteen-year-old daughter, Kylie is taken from a bus stop on her way to school. Her job now is to carry on The Chain. Rachel is thirty-five, divorced, a cancer survivor, she has a new job and she is just getting back on her feet when Kylie is kidnapped. Needing help Rachel brings in Pete, her ex-brother-in-law, a former marine, a veteran and also a drug addict to aid her in kidnapping a child, to be complicit in keeping The Chain going.
In essence, The Chain is a book of two parts. Without going into much detail, part one focuses on Kylie being kidnapped, her predicament and Rachel and Pete and their attempts to continue The Chain. How they go about getting the ransom money, researching and finding a suitable family and child to kidnap, planning, plotting, deciding how they will kidnap the child, where they will keep them, etc through to going through with the actual kidnapping, the emotional turmoil and all that comes with it and being part of and dealing with The Chain. While Part two delves into the past, we get to see the story of those behind The Chain, those who created it and its inception. It also focuses on the aftermath, the effects that The Chain has had on Rachel, Kylie and to a lesser degree Pete who are all suffering with and trying to come to terms with the horrors that they have been through. The Chain has invaded their lives, it is now part of them as they are part of it, it alters you, damages you, scars you, you can’t break The Chain but The Chain can break you. It has a hold on you, you will never be free, it is haunting them, smothering them, slowly killing them. The Chain is a slow suicide for those random unfortunate people who are unlucky enough to have been chosen as a link and it needs to be stopped.
The only way out is to attempt to break The Chain regardless of the possible consequences, to try to find other links and to look back along the chain. To save her family, to allow them the chance to heal and to get the devil that is The Chain of her, Kylie and Pete’s backs Rachel formulates a plan based on her contact with and the clues that she picked up as a link in The Chain. Her plan, to trace The Chain back to the source and put a stop to it for good.
There’s an underlying intensity to the story told in The Chain, to the chapters and to the cruel predicament that Rachel finds herself in. The Chain is devilish by design, it makes you look inside, makes you ask how far would you go, to what lengths and what extremes would you go in order to protect the ones you love, to protect your child? Until you are asked, until you are tested you don’t know what strength, what resilience you have inside. What happens if you can’t do what needs to be done? If, even with the devastating consequences of failure, of the guaranteed death of your own child that you find yourself lacking, that you are found wanting as you can’t hurt another, an innocent to protect your own. Could you kill if required? Is there someone hidden inside you that is capable of such an act?
You will root for Rachel, you might not always agree with her decisions, the dastardly actions that she has to undertake and at times, you might find yourself judging both her and her actions in an unfavourable light but you do root for her. You are sympathetic towards her as her anguish, her guilt over what she must do, her desperation and her determination all radiate from off the pages. The Chain makes you both the torturer and the tortured, you can’t know what you would do in the situation that Rachel finds herself in. She’s having to think on her feet, hating herself for what she has to do, doing bad things but doing those bad things for love, for her own child, for Kylie and you feel for her, you want to see Kylie safe and you want to see The Chain brought down.
McKinty does a good job of balancing out the story and the characterisation in The Chain with the scales tipping slightly in favour of the unfolding story over the characterisation but both combined together serve to drive the book forward. None of the characters are one-dimensional and you are given enough to get a feel for them all from Rachel, Kylie, Pete, Rachel’s ex-husband Marty through to those individuals behind The Chain. Rachel is strong, determined and resilient, Kylie is a teenager, rather addicted to social media but she is a tough kid, resourceful, full of gumption and moxie and Pete will do anything for his niece, he has his own demons but in Rachel and Kylie and their shared experiences, he finds a reason to get clean.
The Chain would be perfect as a TV mini-series or as a film. It is a disturbing read, one that is dark by the nature of The Chain itself and of all that it requires from its links. It is a tension-filled story that is tightly plotted and tautly written. It is like a shot of adrenaline, there is no padding, no wasted words, the writing, at times poetic, at times, lyrical, at others darkly humourous flows smoothly, the pacing is relentless, the chapters fly-by and it is all killer with no filler building throughout, upping the ante and culminating in a heart-pounding and thrilling action-filled climax.
Pre-order The Chain released on July 9th, 2019.
About Adrian McKinty.
Adrian McKinty was born and grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland 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.
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