The Chain by Adrian McKinty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Fleetwood Mac warned us about this.
Rachel O’Neil has had a rough time after a divorce and surviving a battle with cancer, but things are looking up with being in remission and a new teaching job. The promise of this next phase of her life is instantly shattered when she receives a phone call telling her that her young daughter Kylie has been kidnapped, and that Rachel is now the newest link in The Chain.
Not only does Rachel have to quickly come up with a cash ransom to save Kylie, but she also has to identify and kidnap another kid, just like the people who have Kylie did. When Rachel pays up and snatches the next victim, the kidnappers of Kylie will have their child released. Then once Rachel has gotten the parents of the kid she’s taken to kidnap another child, Kylie will be released. And so on and so on.
Rachel quickly learns that the people running The Chain have come up with a fiendishly clever and self-sustaining process. If you try to go to the police, even after the return of your own child, you’d be confessing to kidnapping. Plus, they warn that once a member of The Chain you’re never really free of it, and they may call upon you to do some other horrible task for them or risk you and your family being killed.
Essentially normal law-abiding people are turned into instant criminals. Rachel quickly realizes that appealing to the decency or humanity of the people holding Kylie is pointless once she realizes just how far she’s willing to go herself.
I’d been hearing a lot about this one even before it released thanks to authors like Don Winslow singing its praises, but I was a little leery. The whole parent with a child in peril thing has been tired for me even before Liam Neeson murdered most of Europe to protect his precious baby girl. However, I do recognize that it keeps coming up as a theme because it’s universal and effective when done well.
And it is done very well here. At least for the first two-thirds of the book. I was less happy with the origin story of those behind The Chain, and the ultimate resolution seems just a little too convenient. There’s also one plot turn that I found very hard to buy into, and irritated me even more because it seems like there was a better way to do it sitting right there. That’s what takes this from a 4 star thriller to a very satisfied 3 stars. (I’d go 3 and a half, but….you know. Thanks, Goodreads.)
Because despite my disappointment with the last act I still gotta say that it has incredible momentum for the first half. It starts with a great first line, and just absolutely cooks right along from there for a good long while before petering out just a bit at the end. I particularly enjoyed how quickly Rachel grasps the situation and how she jumps into the mode of acquiring cash and working on her own child kidnapping scheme. That idea of a parent being absolutely willing to inflict the same kind of fear and pain they’re going through on someone else to save their own child is what gives the book some more heft than just being an entertaining page-turner.
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