... isn’t as silly or one-note as it initially sounds. And because McKinty hangs on to his wit and literacy even under duress ... Where McKinty succeeds, in a book that feels heavily worked over to ensure no tangents detract from main events, is in making sure the premise isn’t the main event. Which could easily have happened with a premise like this ... Some scoffing is in order when the disguised, disembodied voice of The Chain recommends antiquated gimmicks like burner phones, the dark web and Bitcoin as the basics of this operation. But the long arm of the crime novelist Don Winslow, the 'Cartel' wizard who turned his own career into the kind McKinty now hopes to achieve, is also visible ... To McKinty’s great credit, he can make readers wonder at any point whether the ground may fall beneath their feet and how much evil they might be pushed toward ... Beneath its surface of high-speed thrills, The Chain is clearly the work of the philosophical thinker McKinty has always been.
Best known for his outstanding Sean Duffy series, set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, McKinty has also written several gripping stand-alones, of which this one is the best yet; in fact, it may well be the biggest thriller of the summer ... a high-concept thriller that draws creatively on familiar tropes ... The suspense here is intense, as one would expect, given the premise, but the true brilliance in this unrelenting novel comes from the way McKinty makes Rachel confront her own capacity for evil and deal with its reverberations, not only on herself and the child she kidnaps, but also on her own child, Kylie. A pitch-perfect psychological thriller.
[McKinty] has proven a dozen times over that he knows how to write people enduring long-term trauma of terrorism, occupation, and kidnapping without cheapening the reality of it. And he brings that experience and talent fully to bear upon the reader with The Chain ... McKinty doesn’t use any tricks of the trade to make this story more relentless than it needs to be...He doesn’t eschew the poetics and embrace of the classical that make the Sean Duffy novels so enjoyable, but he gives the scenes the drive they are due ... harrowing and memorable ... So many stories treat trauma cheaply, like a scrape where whiskey serves as Bactine, but McKinty does not ... gives the reader just enough remove to be entertained and chilled, instead of traumatized ... gives us villains that are all too real ... a thriller I loved.
... the emotional and logical core of this thriller lives inside the conceit itself ... that rare thriller that ends up being highly personal. Yes, there’s a shadowy force dictating the action, but when it all comes down to its (necessarily) explosive conclusion, the actions of characters are boiled down to familial ethics, understandable motivations, and good old-fashioned revenge, which makes for a satisfying and deeply rewarding read, no matter the season.
This is rich territory for a thriller and McKinty makes the most of it. His language is sparse but direct, and the action is non-stop. Rachel’s terror is palpable when she comes to terms with what is happening to her, but the novel is at its most harrowing when Rachel turns to targeting a child and plotting the abduction ... The Chain is the name of the shadowy criminal network, but it’s also a metaphor for how we’re tethered to our devices ... While The Chain will leave many readers anxious about how their social media use puts them at risk, the book represents something of a happy ending—and a new beginning—for its author.
This is one hell of a ride. If you’re looking for a book to keep you up and turning the pages, this is for you ... a tight, intricate thriller which unfolds with escalating horror ... McKinty has done his research. The profile of The Chain’s criminal masterminds is accurate ... a perfect example of the gig economy, our outsourced culture where the victims themselves do all the work.
... awful in all the best ways. It confronts readers with the truth about themselves --- and all of us, really --- by presenting a believable dilemma and asking how far one would go to resolve it. The answer is not pleasant, but it’s true. Adrian McKinty’s book, which is expertly paced and pitch-perfect, will have you turning pages, even as you will feel like throwing your copy across the room ... an experience that will leave you changed and exhausted ... loosely based on a real-world situation. McKinty works it into the story in such a way that the supposition that what occurs here could never happen in your city or neighborhood is pretty much obliterated. The result will have you wandering from room to room at night, making sure that your children are where they are supposed to be, that the windows are secured, and that the doors are locked ... will scare the stuffing out of you, but will entertain you as you lose every drop.
The Chain is the sort of relentless action novel that gets movie studios salivating before the final chapter is written ... Plot is the driving force in The Chain, but the book’s premise is psychologically sound, too. Parents are heroes, McKinty tells us. Also, parents are monsters ... To say that The Chain requires a hefty suspension of disbelief is an understatement. You must accept that negotiating the Dark Web is easy for middle class Americans, that most people can get large sums of cash swiftly ... Once you surrender to it, The Chain turns out to be awfully hard to put down.
Thrillers, at least in terms of premise, don’t get much more psychologically rich than The Chain ... McKinty drops in character details like he’s filling out a résumé but merely because, well, there’s no time for anything more: Her daughter is in danger, and she has to get her back. This inherent breakneck quality lends The Chain structural confidence. Rarely does second-to-second pacing feel justified; here, it’s essential ... Is McKinty up to the task, though, for well over 300 pages? The author at times seems to be at war with the demands of his genre: A sort of cruelly, engrossingly simple story of parental desperation bumps up against corny crime staples — larger conspiracies, literal shadowy figures, the occasional red herring. The novel is at its best when its focus narrows, with punishing clarity, on the emotional intensity of its central predicament. As Rachel becomes more determined to bring the whole chain down, McKinty loses a bit of narrative credibility; more frustratingly, in the back half of the book, he slows down, adding fat to what initially reads like a tremendously lean novel ... works as well as it does because of how off-balance the author keeps [the characters]. You’re teetering right along with them ... McKinty stretches the bounds of belief in the plot’s progression. But by God are these sequences nail-biting. What comes next is clunky and a little didactic, making the story bigger than it needs to be, but at least we’re in the hands of someone who knows how to finish things off — with one last irresistible sprint into darkness. In a book like The Chain, you have no choice but to pray for the worst.
... any parent’s horror story, spelled out in twisted and lurid detail. The only way to read it is to be very sure it’s not going to happen to you and yours—but McKinty doesn’t leave much room for that certainty ... The exhilaration of a crime ride with McKinty is that he never stays just on the surface. His jabs to the underworld aren’t just in terms of menacing criminal figures; they reach the darkness in all of us ... McKinty’s fierce twists of narrative and pressure create one highly believable surprise after another, for a compelling up-to-date twist on crime and threat. The Chain will unforgettably haunt you even if you just read the first chapter—so you might as well lock the doors, bite your nails, and read it all.
That darkness and corruption dwell behind the shiny, happy façade of middle-class life is a common enough theme in American storytelling. In The Chain, McKinty hooks the motif up to a power supply, connects it to wi-fi and plunges it into the Dark Web, where The Chain slithers like a basilisk, feeding on our obsession with social media, and our blithe ignorance of online privacy and security. And where it moves at the speed of a T3 connection ... a straight-up, stone-faced thriller ... McKinty waits until the last third of the book to reveal who created The Chain, and how they run it, day-to-day. It's an infuriating choice, to torture the reader this way, but it's the smart one. Flashbacks inevitably slow a narrative down, and The Chain is all about momentum. Sometimes, though, it feels as though it moves a little too fast. At the peak of the action, discordant notes pop out: A revolver with a safety catch; a Massachusetts colloquialism that doesn't ring quite true. But these are just tiny bumps, loose pebbles on the rails of an otherwise thunderous ride into the darkest, most fearful reaches of a parent's mind.
Parents will do anything for their children, but does that include committing a felony? That dilemma throws the story into high gear, but it feels like whatever Rachel does is already predetermined, giving The Chain an escalating sense of hopelessness. She comes across as everyone's next-door neighbor, making the story even more frightening and personal.
While the scenario sounds far-fetched at first, McKinty presents his brilliantly horrific story in a way that’s almost too real for comfort. Readers will feel every ounce of panic, desperation, fear, hopelessness, and anger that plagues Rachel as she faces a moral conundrum unlike anything else ... McKinty’s ability to navigate that fine line makes for a riveting reading experience unlike anything else currently sitting on bookstore shelves ... nail-biting ... will absolutely rock your world.
... immensely clever ... The concept is brilliant ... It’s a hideous scenario, and utterly implausible, but then hideous, implausible scenarios seem to be the order of the day, in politics as well as fiction, so McKinty is channelling the zeitgeist ... The sheer evil of the concept can be hard to take at times, but the pace is so jaunty it seems daft to take the plot too seriously. Just when you think things can’t get worse, they do ... There’s a touch of Scooby Doo in the way the story skips along merrily through horror after horror. Heroin addiction and cancer are subplots that, given a fairly minimalist treatment, only narrowly manage to avoid being trite ... Having cooked up the most fiendish of plots, however, McKinty doesn’t hold back in throwing more horrors into the pot as he proceeds with breakneck speed towards his conclusion ... may have some resonance with the gloomy state of world affairs and the breakdown of civilised norms, but it is essentially light entertainment, and as such it succeeds splendidly. No surprise, then, to hear the film rights have just been sold to Paramount. It has all the elements of an absolute blockbuster.
It’s the kind of book that has you furiously turning pages, and then when you finish exhaling in exhaustion ... Rachel is this fascinating mix of vulnerability over steel. For whatever you may think of her when the book starts, you’ll think of her differently by the end ... Characterisation, accompanied by the pacing, will draw you into their situation, and leave your heart in your mouth a couple of times, I swear. But that’s the strength of McKinty’s writing: pacing and characterisation have found this perfect mix ... The hype machine was not wrong on this one.
McKinty takes what at first seems like a fantastical scenario and imbues it with all the terror, stress, trauma, and messiness of reality. At once a commentary on social media, greed, revenge, love, and true evil, and written with an almost lyrical quality, this book will have readers searching for more McKinty titles to devour ... An unmissable thriller.