A few weeks ago, I met Adrian McKinty in the back room of a slick Manhattan bar. It was a tri-author book event hosted by Little, Brown, but really it was McKinty I was there to see. I was a fan, and I also felt a personal ‘thank you’ was in order. He’d been generous enough to blurb my first novel a couple of years ago. These are things an emerging writer does not soon forget. Writerly role models saying kind, encouraging words about you, and slapping said words on the back of your book – these are offerings that mean so much. It’s one of the true highlights in that torturous road to first publication.
McKinty didn’t disappoint in person. Disarming, funny, self-deprecating, in that charming way of the Irish. Meeting artists you admire can be a tricky game – particularly writers, whose best selves often tend to linger on the page, not in forced social settings of promotion and publicity. But there was nothing but good vibes coming from this one. Perhaps I caught him on a good night. In fact, I’m sure I did.
See, Adrian McKinty is on the cusp of being a very big deal in publishing. And he’s done it the right way, the hard way. He’s penned fourteen novels to date. They’ve been the sort to win awards and to garner the admiration of his peers. The sales though? Not exactly blockbuster status.
This is about to change.
His latest – The Chain (Mulholland) – is bound for best-seller lists the world over. It is the best thriller that will be released this year. And yes, I know, 2019 is only half through; I’m quite sure that nothing released in the latter half of this year will surpass it. I’m not sure any thriller published in the last ten years can match it.
It’s a jaw-dropping thriller with an all-time hook: Your child’s been kidnapped. The only way to get your kid back is to kidnap another. If you don’t, or the next parents in line fail in their task, your child will be murdered. Welcome to The Chain.
No less than Don Winslow has called it “Jaws for parents.” By which he means it taps into our most visceral terrors in ways you don’t quite come back from. For many millions of people, the ocean will never be the same after watching Jaws. After reading The Chain, parents everywhere may be forgiven for bouts of extreme over-protectiveness. Evidently, snatching a kid is far easier than you might have thought. Even more frightening – otherwise good people will not think twice about doing it, if it means saving their own. Faced with protecting our children, McKinty reveals that we are all capable of the most monstrous acts.
Orchestrating this chain of evil are monsters who will defy expectations. “It’s not about the money,” they stress. Though, it is, sort of. Part of every kidnapping involves a ransom – with amounts set subjectively, based on the family’s income level, along with the in-the-moment sadism of the operators. But the main thing is simply to keep the chain going. Think of it more as a sociology experiment, a stroke of malevolent entrepreneurialism, with the added benefit of riches, without having to do the wet work themselves.
That night at that Manhattan book party, I was about a hundred pages into my advance copy. So, while thrilled by the opportunity to chat with McKinty, I was more than a little distracted. In every conversation, I think I was only partly there. The other part of me was back inside those pages, needing to get back to it as soon as possible. When you read – and review – books on a more or less continuous basis, it generally becomes easy to compartmentalize such things. I can be immersed in any number of books, set them down, and manage to function as a fully present member of society. Most of the time, but not this time.
The Chain is that kind of book. A thriller destined to be a classic, haunting side effects and all. The Chain is now available for purchase.
About Adrian McKinty
Adrian was born and grew up in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. After studying philosophy at Oxford University he emigrated to New York City where he lived in Harlem for five years working in bars, bookstores, building sites and finally the basement stacks of the Columbia University Medical School Library in Washington Heights. In 2001 Adrian moved to Denver, Colorado where he taught high school English and started writing fiction. His first full-length novel Dead I Well May Be was shortlisted for the 2004 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, was optioned by Universal Pictures and was picked by Booklist as one of the 10 best crime novels of the year.