The Chain (2019) by Adrian McKinty

It’s a simple deal. Your phone rings to tell you that someone has kidnapped your child. You must pay a ransom and kidnap someone else’s child. When their ransom has been paid, your child will be released. If you make any effort to deviate from this plan, your child will be killed. The Chain will carry on – and you will always be a link in it.

Rachel is not in a good place. Her cancer may be in remission, but she still lives in the shadow of it. When her daughter, Kylie, disappears, and she receives a call from the previous link in the Chain, Rachel has to put her morals aside to save her daughter. After all, with no way of tracing the hand behind the Chain, there’s no way to fight back and break it. Is there?

It’s time for a delve into the “things that sit on my Kindle that I have no recollection of buying so it must have been 99p”. Must come up with a catchier name for that category…

The Chain came out in 2019 and won a whole bundle of “Best of the Year” award, so there’s every chance that you’ve already read it. I should point out for regular readers that this is not a mystery, it’s “just” a thriller. OK, I suppose you could argue there is a smidge of a whodunit involved, but if anyone was genuinely surprised by that twist, they probably haven’t read a book before.

This is an excellent thriller, it must be said. It’s divided into two halves, the first dealing with Rachel’s interactions with the Chain, trying to get her daughter back by following the instructions she receives, instructions that do, at times, change. The second half deals with the aftermath of the events, as with the ever-present threat of the Chain hanging over them, Rachel and others are finding it impossible to cope with everyday life. We also, in this section, start to learn the backstory behind the masterminds behind it all.

I find it a little hard to give this the unqualified praise that everyone else seems to have. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very good, but the problem with this set-up is that it’s hard to really pull off the ending where, almost by necessity, Rachel has to somehow track down the people behind the Chain. The final scenes felt as if they were being written with the Hollywood adaptation in mind – one character even talks about who would play him in the film version! It’s more the idea that Rachel is the only person who ever seems to have got even close to the villains that is odd, along with the erratic behaviour of one of them which has a deus ex machina whiff of being able to make the end a lot more personal.

But overall, it’s a gripping read and for the most part, the reader will not know where things are going, a rarity in modern thrillers. It’s definitely worth your time and I look forward to reading more from the author.


  1. I read this a while back for a book club and I was pleasantly surprised by it. You are quite right that it has some flaws (the romance didn’t work for me and I agree about the lack of pushback from previous victims) but it is a page-turner and I thought the scenes with the daughter and her kidnappers were excellent.


    • Some stuff as well seemed to be given almost surface detail – he’s on drugs, he’s on methadone, he’s spiking his methadone, he’s OK now – with no real comeback in the second half of the book. I don’t think it’s Book of The Year material, but good enough to be considered.


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