The Chain

Adrian McKinty

The Chain is a suspense thriller novels that follows Rachel and Kylie O’Neill being brought into the Chain. Rachel becomes a part of the Chain when her 13 year old daughter, Kylie, is kidnapped and she is given instructions on a ransom she must pay and how she must kidnap another child in order to be reunited with Kylie.

This thriller is truly a parents’ worst nightmare but shows us how far a parent will go to save their own child. It is a chilling story that will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. My only critique would be that I wished for a genuinely thrilling twist at the end where there was instead an extended action sequence. The conclusion to the novel became clear several chapters too early which didn’t stop me from enjoying the ending but did limit the suspense element of it. This is likely because the second part of the book includes chapters from the perspective of the leaders of the Chain, and whilst this is initially intriguing, I found that it gave away a bit too much too early on.

However, having said that, the horror of the events of this book really hit home through the depiction of Rachel. Rachel is a recent divorcee, primary carer of her daughter and recently finished chemotherapy for breast cancer. The development of Rachel’s character through the book exemplifies how a parent would feel if their child was taken and and the increasing willingness to do whatever it takes to get them back.

Another interesting character in this book is Pete. Pete is Kylie’s doting uncle and Rachel’s ex-brother in law, who Rachel calls upon to help her with the kidnapping and getting Kylie back. Pete is an ex-marine and, as we quickly find out, current heroin addict. He is a clear example a military man who was given opioids and then, after they were taken away, resorted to heroin to fill the void. Throughout the book, Pete is forced to deal with his addiction not only because of the trauma but also because he develops a relationship with Rachel, who discovers his addiction and refuses to have him around Kylie unless he gets help. My favourite part of his characterisation is that he is a loving uncle and partner who suffers with a drug problem, and we are never at any point expected to view him in a negative light. His is a thoroughly good character who has flaws.

Overall, this book is currently being raved about, and rightly so, as it is definitely a noteworthy thriller that everyone should read.

My Sister, the Serial Killer

Oyinkan Brathwaite

This quick read was a true joy to read. Set in Nigeria, the book follows Korede, who has helped her sister, Ayoola, cover up the murders of her last three boyfriends. However, when Ayoola takes an interest in Korede’s colleague and close friend, Tade, Korede is faced with a dilemma of how to prevent her sister from killing again.

Whilst this book on the surface sounds as though it could be a fast-paced thriller, it is in fact a very light-hearted, humorous read, focusing primarily on the relationship between the two sisters.

The women are in many ways opposites, but at their core hold a loyalty for one another that extends beyond all else. However, this loyalty also leads to a resentment on Korede’s part as a result of the responsibility she must bear for Ayoola’s actions, both benign and lethal in nature.

I was incredibly impressed with how Braithwaite managed to keep the book light and enjoyable whilst exploring the resentment Korede regularly feels for her sister over the being complicit in the murders of Ayoola’s ex-boyfriends as well the guilt that she particularly suffers from after the third murder.

What was particularly clever on the part of Braithwaite, however, was that the focus on the sister’s relationship, rather than the narrative of Ayoola possibly killing again, allowed you to step away from the sinister nature of her actions and more fully understand the dilemma Korede faces, of whether to betray her sister by preventing her from killing again or remain silent but loyal.

Additionally, the reoccurring themes of everyday sexism found within daily Nigerian life for a woman added another perspective to the book that allowed you to sympathise with the female characters despite their questionable morals. This was further emphasised through the flashbacks of what life was like prior to their father’s death, when they lived in fear of his abuse.

Overall, this book manages to touch upon many intensely dark and harrowing issues whilst maintaining a comedic edge with great success. I would thoroughly recommend reading this book.

The Chalkman

CJ Tudor

This Stephen King-esque thriller was a true unexpected gem. I found it in a charity shop about a year ago and finally got around to reading it this year and I wasn’t disappointed.

The novel alternates between Ed as a 12 year old in 1986 and Ed as an adult in 2016 as present day Ed is forced to remember events of his childhood when mysterious drawings of chalk men once again start appearing.

The way in which Tudor balances the separate events and Ed’s reflections of the past is beautifully done, leaving you torn between wanting to find out what happened in 1986 and what’s about to happen in 2016. I particularly enjoy books which alternate chapters between characters or different points in time so this was one of the features which initially drew me to the book.

Although I would say that some of the reveals felt slightly anti-climactic, this certainly doesn’t detract from the constantly building sense of unease you feel as you read the book, particularly with regard to the 2016 narrative. Whilst you are always expecting something to happen in the 1986 chapters, and there are still moments where Tudor is able to surprise you, there is an element of ease about them because of the knowledge you gain from the 2016 chapters, whereas this same sense of ease cannot be found in the present day chapters.

Instead there is very much a sense of finally understanding what happened 30 years prior, whilst still being unable to predict what will happen next, filling the 2016 chapters with far more mystery, with one answer often leading you to another question.

However, I would say that the main drawback of the book for me was Ed’s lack of likeability, which I found to be particularly pronounced in the chapters featuring him as an adult. Unfortunately, after reading a certain amount of the book I started to find his character quite wearing as he predominantly came across as a self-pitying, mildly alcoholic middle-aged man.

Fortunately this in know way took away from the final shock twist of the book and I thoroughly recommend this book based on the ending alone.