Wednesday, July 24, 2019

THE CHAIN :: Adrian McKinty

A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is republished here with permission.

Shortly after 13-year-old Kylie hears her school bus drive past the car in which she's held captive--blindfolded, at gunpoint--the kidnappers contact her mother. Rachel Klein's positive steps toward a new life--divorce, cancer remission, new job--take a devastating tumble as she learns she and Kylie are now part of "the Chain." Multiple lives depend on Rachel doing exactly what the Chain demands. Even if they can survive, Rachel and Kylie are beholden for the rest of their lives.

The woman holding Kylie explains she is only trying to save her own kidnapped son. Stick with me here--to secure Kylie's release, Rachel must follow the same rules: send crypto-currency ransom to the Chain's account and then steal someone else's child. Kylie will be returned once Rachel deposits the funds and convinces her kidnap victim's family to pay and take yet another child. Like a snake eating its tail, the Chain perpetuates itself. If Rachel breathes a word, ever, people will die.

The refreshingly horrifying premise of Adrian McKinty's The Chain probes the lengths parents will go to protect their children and the lines others will cross to exploit them. McKinty's standalone thriller, following his Detective Sean Duffy series (Gun Street Girl), is a warped ride through the consequences of the Chain messing with the wrong woman. The action takes some fun and unanticipated turns as Rachel finds help following the rules before deciding to break them. A few convenient coincidences and deep technological details don't slow Rachel's blockbuster roll to cut the links in the Chain.

STREET SENSE: The premise of The Chain is holy cats crazy and wonderful (horrible wonderful). The plot goes places I didn't expect at the halfway point. Things got a bit far afield in the second half, but there is no doubt this one is an entertaining page-turner.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE: There are some great metaphors for the Chain and some lovely descriptions (rough plot be damned, I love authors who add beauty to the horror), but I particularly liked this simple line:

"The Chain is a cage always in search of the most vulnerable birds."

Oh, hell, I liked this, too, because any Jaws reference wins the day with me:

"The plan is simple. All the best plans are simple. Aren't they? Get in the boat, find the whale, kill it. Get in the boat, find the shark, kill it."

COVER NERD SAYS:  I love me some plain, simple and artful and this is all three. A rockin' blurb (Jaws-related, no less!) from Don Winslow will also allow me to break my "blurbs are the devil" rule. This is great cover work.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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