Rachel O’Neill’s life is finally getting back on track. Following a divorce and intensive chemotherapy, Rachel is set to begin the next stage of her life as a professor at a local community college and continue raising her teenage daughter. That is, until, she her caller ID shows up with UNKNOWN CALLER and everything comes crashing down.
Rachel has become the target of The Chain, a mysterious group that kidnaps kids and holds them hostage until the latest target completes a series of tasks, including a huge cash ransom (delivered in Bitcoin) and kidnapping a new target to bring into this pyramid scandal gone horribly, horribly wrong. If she doesn’t comply, Kylie dies and a new target is chosen. If she goes to the authorities or chooses a victim with connection to authorities, Kylie dies. If she tells anyone during the process or after, she and Kylie die.
The set-up for Adrian McKinty’s The Chain is one of every parent’s worst nightmares (or at least that’s how the dust jacket describes it). But the novel itself is one of two halves — one of them an intense one that keeps you on the edge of your seat and the other that piles on one twist too many and ruined this reader’s willing suspension of disbelief.
The first half with Rachel struggling to find a way to get Kylie back is wonderfully done. McKinty gives us glimpses into not only what Rachel is doing, but also Kylie and Rachel’s former brother-in-law, Pete, who will be instrumental to getting Kylie back and meeting the demands of The Chain.
I’m going to hide some of my thoughts from this point forward due to SPOILERS.
The second half of the book introduces some new players into the equation, giving us their story as they grow up in a less than desirable home and how it slowly warps these two children. It’s once this story intersects with Rachel trying to bring down the Chain that things go completely out the window. Again, SPOILERS if you haven’t read the book yet and don’t want to know.
Turns out one of the two kids is one of the instigators of The Chain who happens to be the new girlfriend of Rachel’s ex-husband.
It was at this (late in the game) twist that my eyes rolled big time and the book began to lose its momentum and willing suspension of disbelief for me. The final chapters unfold pretty much as you’d expect if you’ve seen any of the Taken trilogy with Liam Neeson.
It’s a shame that McKinty undermines the narrative at a late stage, taking the book from one of the more entertaining suspense thrillers I’ve read in a while to one that left me with a bad taste.