The Chain by Adrian McKinty

The Chain
is one of those pacy, page-turning American thrillers* with gimmicky but intriguing premise. It begins with the abduction of a young teenager as she waits for a bus. And if her mother, Rachel, wants her back, she has to kidnap someone else's child in turn, and then that child's parents have to abduct another - and so The Chain continues. 

This is, of course, ridiculous; let's not pretend otherwise. There are so many reasons this wouldn't happen. But as is often the case with thrillers in this genre, you just need to put aside your misgivings about the plausibility of the plot and buckle up for the ride. If you've read Harlan Coben or Steve Cavanagh you'll know what I mean. Suspension of disbelief is crucial to the enjoyment of a book like this.

I didn't find the main characters enormously plausible either, it has to be said, but I still liked them a lot. Single mother Rachel, the protagonist, is steely and determined in her quest to get Kylie back, aided by Pete, her ex-husband's brother, a former soldier and current heroin addict (albeit a suspiciously functional one). Even Kylie's slightly roguish father, is affably reasonable and his relationship with Rachel is not at all the clichéd one of warring divorced parents bickering over custody arrangements. The supporting players - the other parents who are part of The Chain, for example - are mostly bland enough to fade into the background, but that's not a problem given that their purpose is really to drive Rachel's story forward. Perhaps the most interesting character-driven elements of the story are the moments when the parents involved have to look within themselves come to terms with the dark depths they would sink to for the sake of their own child, even at the expense of someone else's. 

The plot of The Chain rattles along at a fair speed and the structure, in which cliffhangers are often succeeded by a cut to some different characters in another location, feels quite televisual to me, so much so that I sometimes felt as if I was reading the novelisation of a Netflix mini-series, but that isn't really a criticism; it's one of the reasons the book is such an effortless read. The plot, while not overly twisty, did take a turn I hadn't been expecting as it dug deeper into the first link in The Chain and at times, things became really quite creepy. As the story hurtled towards its conclusion, I did get a sense of the story being a little bit rushed and some of the impact was lost for that reason, but it's still a cleverly plotted, action-packed mystery.

*Adrian McKinty is actually from Northern Ireland, and also writes thrillers set there, but lives in the US where The Chain takes place.