“The Chain” by Adrian McKinty is about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. This kind of thing does not happen in civilized, safe Massachusetts, and yet there they all are, involved in the complex entanglement that is “The Chain.” The events are non-stop, and each chapter identifies the time to emphasize the frantic pace.
A thirteen-year-old girl does not even notice the man with the gun until he is almost next to her.
“If you scream, struggle, or try to run, I’m going to shoot you. Do you understand?” She nods…“All right. Good. Keep calm. Put this blindfold on. What your mother does in the next twenty-four hours will determine whether you live or die.”
There it is; the terrifying premise of the book, a kidnapping. The only way for a parent to get back a child is to kidnap someone else’s child. “You’re in The Chain now.” No matter what, one must never break the chain. The fear is palatable right from the start and grows on every page. The conspiracy, the psychotic dependence, and, surprisingly, the comradery grow as well. Parents fear each other and yet depend on each other to keep the chain intact and to bring home their children.
Alternating chapters are told from the points of view of the various players so readers observe all sides of the trauma, follow all the clues, and witness all the mistakes. Each parent is not the first in the chain and will not be the last.
Readers are immediately aware of the hidden dangers of social media as parents scour online posts looking for the next victim. They easily find schedules, activities, opportunities, and openings so they can add the next child, the next family, to the chain; so they can get their child back. Unfortunately, “The Chain” will always be there, lurking in the background even after their child is safe at home. “The Chain” will be part of them for the rest of all their lives.
McKinty depicts civilization as a thin, fragile veneer covering the law of the jungle — Better you than me; better your kid than my kid. He turns victims into accomplices and then makes them complicit in the torture of yet more parents. The Chain seems unbreakable, but it is vulnerable because some children are not as compliant as their parents are. The sky is falling because children are poking holes in it, and readers watch as pieces fall all around.
McKinty also makes a book recommendation. The narrative mentions Elizabeth Smart; Smart’s book “My Story” is truly inspiring. One of the children mentions her. “Elisabeth Smart. That was the Mormon girl’s name. In that interview, she had been dignified and calm. She had said that there was always hope in these situations. Her faith had always given her hope.”
“The Chain” It is quite different from McKinty’s Sean Duffy series. It will keep readers turning page after page, and looking over their shoulders. McKinty notes that seventy-seven is the sum of the first eight prime numbers and the atomic number of iridium. It is an ending number. All books should end on the seventy-seventh chapter. They never do, however McKinty does. Readers hope that this is not the end but the beginning of something new for McKinty.