The Chain by Adrian McKinty is based on the idea of those very annoying chain letters or, for you youngins, chain emails. Like, if the Nigerian Prince wanted to murder your family rather than send you large sums of money.
The Chain is a complex kidnapping operation. Your child is kidnapped, you are contacted with ransom information, and then told to kidnap another child. See, implicating you as well is how they’re able to keep the chain going. Once your target it kidnapped, their ransom is paid, and their family kidnaps their target, your child is released and everyone lives happily ever after! Except for the constant paranoia, the PTSD, the fear. You know, that stuff.
The book begins with a kidnapping. Young Kylie is taken from the bus stop by a couple who seem to hate themselves for what they’re doing, but will also do anything to get their child back. It’s a conundrum. Kylie’s mother, Rachel is called with her instructions. From here, the POVs bounce back and forth between Rachel and Kylie; Rachel scrambling around trying to pay the ransom, kidnap a kid, keep her ex-husband from becoming suspicious, finding out if her cancer has returned. Rachel is going through it. Kylie is concocting creative, but ultimately useless, escape plans. Will mom come through? Read the book to find out, or continue reading this blog where spoilers abound.
Rachel can’t tell Marty, her ex, what the heck is going on, so she calls on Pete, Marty’s older brother. He was a Marine, so he is familiar with secret operations and dealing with bad people. He is also very familiar with heroine. Like so many returning veterans, Pete was not given the help he needed to cope with the things he had to do, so he turned to heroine because why not? Seriously. I’ve done almost nothing and can barely cope.
Rachel and Pete scout and successfully kidnap a child. They complete their roles in the chain, Kylie is returned to her family, and everything goes back to the new version of normal. Rachel is paranoid, Kylie is wetting the bed and contemplating suicide, Pete is pretending he isn’t a heroine addict. Things are shaky at best.
Rachel decides to dismantle the chain from the inside. She reaches out to a man who has been trying to do just that for years. After his initial meeting with Rachel he is almost immediately murdered. This is the part of the book where we are also getting the POV of the two people responsible for the chain. A set of twins who are straight up psychopaths. They were raised in a hippy cult commune situation which, honestly, fascinates me and I would have liked to know more about that. We’re told very little, just that mom and dad raised them there, something happened to mom, dad left with the twins, and got remarried. The twins hated their stepmom so much that they literally watched her die, closed the bathroom door, and pretended that nothing happened. They also blackmailed kids in class using letters and not-so-empty threats to get what they wanted. Oh, and the one time they went on family vacay, they threw their little brother overboard and watched him drown. Basically, these two are not human.
So, when Rachel begins closing in, you would expect a bloodbath. But no. The two go very Boris and Natasha at the end.
I’m not real sure why they didn’t kill everyone and flee. I mean, they threw a baby into the ocean and basically high-fived about it when they were children. Where did this sudden reluctance to kill come from? The ending, which I did not entirely give away, is what made this a three star for me.
I read The Chain in about three days, so it’s perfect for a long weekend or a quick, fun, psychological thriller.