THE CHAIN by Adrian McKinty, Book Review: A chilling plot

The Chain, Adrian McKinty’s unashamedly commercial new stand-alone thriller, features a chilling plot and seems written for the big screen.

The Chain Book ReviewThe ChainBook Synopsis


The morning starts like any other. Rachel Klein drops her daughter, Kylie, at the bus stop and heads into her day. But then a phone call changes everything. A woman has Kylie bound and gagged in her back seat, and the only way Rachel will ever see her again is if she pays a ransom – and kidnaps another child. The caller is a mother herself, whose son has also been abducted, and if Rachel doesn’t do exactly as she’s told, both children will die. Rachel is now part of a terrifying scheme – The Chain.

The rules are simple: find the money, find your victim, and then commit a horrible act you’d have thought yourself incapable of just 24 hours ago. Rachel is an ordinary woman, but over the coming days she will be pushed beyond ordinary limits to save her daughter. What the anonymous masterminds behind The Chain know is that parents will do anything for their children. But what they don’t know is that they may have met their match.

Can Rachel be the one person to finally break The Chain?

(Hachette Australia, July 2019)

Genre: Thriller, Action, Mystery, Crime-Detective

Disclosure: If you click a link in this post we may earn a small commission to help offset our running costs.


It was with high expectations that I embarked on Adrian McKinty’s The Chain. This author’s Detective Sean Duffy (The Troubles) Series titles have routinely featured in my annual best books lists. I recommend his award-winning In The Morning I’ll Be Gone, Gun Street Girl and Rain Dogs unreservedly.

Adrian McKinty US Cover The Chain

Firstly, the story concept is an absolute cracker. It is no surprise to me that Don Winslow’s agent sent McKinty a $10,000 advance on hearing it, and that The Chain has been sold to 36 countries and scored McKinty a seven-figure movie deal with Paramount, all pre-release.

The psychopathy of The Chain perpetrators and the ease with which they toy with their victims, the self-inflicted nature of that torture is chilling. And the seemingly inescapable web of guilt and lies, is highly plausible and thus compelling.

Human beings are creatures whose lives are governed by deep instincts. They are like mice, these people, mice in the hay fields, and she’s the peregrine swooping over them, seeing every little thing they do.

However, this story’s execution fell short of my expectations. The depth of characterisation I have come to expect from McKinty was absent. Sure, Rachel is a gutsy protagonist and of course I wanted her to prevail, but her self-deprecation continually broke my emotional engagement. I actually felt McKinty plumbed far greater depth in the narrative of The Chain mastermind than that of Rachel or her daughter.

“If I don’t make it, don’t let them cast some asshole to play me in the movie version of this” ― Adrian McKinty, The Chain

The Chain is an unashamedly commercial novel that I think will be better suited to the big screen, and I really hope it makes it there… Not because I think this particular novel is more deserving than others, but so that McKinty then has the means and international platform to return to producing the top-quality fiction long-time fans know and love.

In the meantime, I urge readers to check out this highly talented author’s far superior back catalogue.

In The Morning I'll Be Gone
Gun Street Girl
Rain Dogs

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 3 / 5  — Overall 3.5

Get your copy of The Chain from:

Bookshop US Amazon Book Depository Booktopia AU

OR listen to the audiobook FREE with Audible’s Trial (check eligibility)

I have also since read McKinty’s second blockbuster action-thriller The Island.

More highly recommended action thrillers:
Falling by TJ Newman  /  Man Down by Irma Venter  /  The Burning Island by Jock Serong  /  Ask No Questions by Lisa Hartley  /  Real Tigers by Mick Herron

Adrian McKinty, Author

Adrian McKinty was born and grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland during the Troubles of the 1970s and 1980s. His father was a boilermaker and ship’s engineer and his mother a secretary. Adrian went to Oxford University on a full scholarship to study philosophy before emigrating to the United States to become a high school English teacher. His debut crime novel Dead I Well May Be was shortlisted for the 2004 Dagger Award and was optioned by Universal Pictures. His books have won the Edgar Award, the Ned Kelly Award, the Anthony Award, the Barry Award and have been translated into over 20 languages. Adrian is a reviewer and critic for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Irish Times and The Guardian. He now lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

* My receiving a copy from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions.