This book needs a seat belt because it blasts off at some serious speed and the momentum never lets up. The opening chapters are shocking and the principle of The Chain is completely unique and deeply unsettling. Rachel Klein is a divorced single mother, with a 13-year-old daughter, Kylie. She has just been appointed to a new job and hopes that her life can now take a step forward, especially with her battle against breast cancer being in remission for a year. Then the ultimate terror is just about to unfold.
“Two things you must remember,” a voice says through some kind of speech-distortion machine. “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.”
The stranger explains that Kylie has been kidnapped and that there will be a call shortly that she must be ready for. The second call comes from an upset woman who explains there are a number of parts and instructions that must be followed exactly or Kylie dies. First Rachel must pay twenty-five thousand dollars in ransom through a bitcoin exchange on the dark web or Kylie dies. For the second part, the woman explains that she has kidnapped Kylie so her son could be released. Her instruction is to kidnap someone to replace her daughter in The Chain, or Kylie dies. If Rachel breaks the rules her daughter will die and the kidnappers will move to another target or their own son will die. What a terrifying concept – I was stunned and impressed, shocked and fascinated, and afraid.
The heart-racing terror looms constantly and the abject fear of failing, drives family members forward. They must also face the distressing undertaking of carrying this out on another child and family. The ever-watching Chain will approve the targets because they must believe the families will be totally committed to the task and not break one of the fundamental rules by contacting the police. It’s all about the chain! The diversity of personalities is impressive and the emotional conflict Rachel has between trying to rescue her own child and not wishing to harm another core to the moral conflict in the story. We watch the wonderfully crafted transition from being a victim to a criminal. There is no escape from the decision, no easy way out, you will need to accept the consequences.
This is such a wicked plot, which is masterfully developed by incorporating the distress, the twists, and the frantic and terrifying steps Rachel must face. Not everything goes according to plan and the mistakes and challenges feel real and heighten the anguish. Rachel eventually considers not only saving her daughter but how she can make another transition to the punisher, and destroy The Chain. We can argue it’s about preventing untold suffering for other families, but it’s really about revenge, closure and the removal of a threat.
Adrian McKinty is an author from my home town but this is the first book of his I’ve read – not going to be the last, I’m proud to say. What is remarkable about this novel is the pace and content that comes from every nail-biting page. I would highly recommend this book and I’d like to thank Orion Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC copy in return for an honest review.