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The Chain


The Chain

THE CHAIN is awful in all the best ways. It confronts readers with the truth about themselves --- and all of us, really --- by presenting a believable dilemma and asking how far one would go to resolve it. The answer is not pleasant, but it’s true. Adrian McKinty’s book, which is expertly paced and pitch-perfect, will have you turning pages, even as you will feel like throwing your copy across the room.

So how exactly does THE CHAIN elicit such a reaction? It puts a child in peril. You don’t need to be told that kids are pretty much everywhere. All of us have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or little ones we care about to varying degrees, whether we enjoy an occasional loving visit or find that the sun rises and sets at their feet. That is the case with Rachel Klein, the divorced mother of 13-year-old Kylie. Rachel is going about her business after dropping Kylie off at the school bus stop when she gets a phone call that has the potential to change her life forever.

"Adrian McKinty’s book, which is expertly paced and pitch-perfect, will have you turning pages, even as you will feel like throwing your copy across the room."

The caller is a stranger, a mother who somewhat matter-of-factly tells Rachel that she has kidnapped Kylie. The woman goes on to describe something that Rachel eventually learns is The Chain. Someone has taken the woman’s son, and if she is to get him back, she has to kidnap a child (which she has now done) and force Rachel to perform a number of tasks, which include depositing a large sum in a Bitcoin account and abducting another child. The son of the woman who kidnapped Kylie will then go free. Rachel will get Kylie back once she jumps through those identical hoops by forcing the parents of the child who Rachel has kidnapped to do the same thing.

All of this is totally outside of Rachel’s wheelhouse, but she has an ace-in-the-hole in the form of Pete, her brother-in-law who is a badly bent but not quite broken war veteran who knows a trick or two of his own. The narrative lurches wonderfully from situation to situation as Rachel does whatever it takes to get Kylie back. Her efforts take up the first half or so of the book, and then things get unimaginably worse as readers --- along with Rachel and Kylie --- get to know the people behind The Chain. It is an experience that will leave you changed and exhausted.

THE CHAIN is loosely based on a real-world situation. McKinty works it into the story in such a way that the supposition that what occurs here could never happen in your city or neighborhood is pretty much obliterated. The result will have you wandering from room to room at night, making sure that your children are where they are supposed to be, that the windows are secured, and that the doors are locked. And during the day? Maybe sitting inside, watching Netflix and playing video games, isn’t such a bad way to pass the time after all. At least you know where they are. THE CHAIN will scare the stuffing out of you, but will entertain you as you lose every drop.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 12, 2019

The Chain
by Adrian McKinty