Bibliophile | Adrian McKinty’s ‘The Chain’ is a don’t-put-it-down thriller

The Chain
by Adrian McKinty
Hachette Australia

A friend of mine who lives on a main highway once told me that she was fascinated by the motor vehicle accidents that regularly occur outside her house and the ambulances that would arrive to take away the injured. The more horrifying the situation seemed, the more she was drawn to investigate, even though it was something she really didn’t want to be confronted with.

Adrian McKinty’s don’t-put-it-down thriller The Chain draws on my friend’s accident fascination except that the reader somehow gets drawn so thoroughly into the narrative that they seem to be both observing the horrific events and participating in them. Get ready for The Chain to invade your belief system and violate your deepest values and principles.

Most of the characters are everyday people. Rachel Klein, for example, drops her thirteen year old daughter off at the bus stop and before the single parent heads off to her appointment for a routine six month check with the oncologist. Thinking about the lecture she is going to give when she starts her new job, she notices a call from an unknown caller.

Everything changes in that moment as a female caller informs her that her daughter Kylie has been kidnapped from the bus stop. The only way Rachel will ever see her only child again is to pay a ransom beyond her means – and kidnap another child.

The caller is a mother herself, whose son has been abducted, and if Rachel doesn’t do exactly as she’s been told, then both children will die. Of course, calling the police is out of the question because Rachel is now part of the chain – which is like a chain letter but with chilling violence attached to it.

The rules of the terrifying scheme are to pay the money, find a victim and then commit a horrible act that you would have thought yourself incapable of 24 hours previously. The beauty of the scheme is that parents will do anything for their children.

“You’ve never experienced fear until something or someone puts your child in danger. Dying is not the worst thing that can happen to you. The worst thing that can happen to you is for something to happen to your child.”

The story eventually reveals the motivations of the sadistic masterminds behind the scheme and the methods that have kept the self-perpetuating money earner going for many years, even though they insist that it is not about the money but about keeping the chain going.

Of course, when ordinary people are pushed to their limits, and dying is not the worst thing that can happen, they just might fight back against an evil force that is wrecking so many lives and finally break the chain.

Lezly Herbert