Wednesday 15 February 2023

Reprieve by James Han Mattson

ReprieveReprieve by James Han Mattson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 2 days

Pages - 416

Publisher - Bloomsbury Publishing

Source - Bought

Blurb from Goodreads

A chilling and blisteringly relevant literary novel of social horror centered around a brutal killing that takes place in a full-contact haunted escape room—a provocative exploration of capitalism, hate politics, racial fetishism, and our obsession with fear as entertainment.

On April 27, 1997, four contestants make it to the final cell of the Quigley House, a full-contact haunted escape room in Lincoln, Nebraska, made famous for its monstrosities, booby-traps, and ghoulishly costumed actors. If the group can endure these horrors without shouting the safe word, “reprieve,” they’ll win a substantial cash prize—a startling feat accomplished only by one other group in the house’s long history. But before they can complete the challenge, a man breaks into the cell and kills one of the contestants.

Those who were present on that fateful night lend their points of view: Kendra Brown, a teenager who’s been uprooted from her childhood home after the sudden loss of her father; Leonard Grandton, a desperate and impressionable hotel manager caught in a series of toxic entanglements; and Jaidee Charoensuk, a gay international student who came to the United States in a besotted search for his former English teacher. As each character’s journey unfurls and overlaps, deceit and misunderstandings fueled by obsession and prejudice are revealed, forcing all to reckon with the ways in which their beliefs and actions contributed to a horrifying catastrophe.

An astonishingly soulful exploration of complicity and masquerade, Reprieve combines the psychological tension of classic horror with searing social criticism to present an unsettling portrait of this tangled American life.

My Review

An escape room where it is more than one room, the players can touch/hit you and big money available to win. A team of four head in to tackle it, to win, when one of the group is murdered. The book goes back and forward in time and we meet the characters. Kendra, teen, lover of horror is uprooted and off to live with her cousin and aunt and where the ultimate escape room horror house. Jaidee Charoensuk a gay exchange student who can never quite forget the teacher he felt a connection with, Bryan who is Kendra's cousin and we meet Leon - a business guy who is having a bit of a time of it.

The thing with the book is, the house of horror and having to get through the cells and the tasks (X amount of envelopes and you must collect so many to be allowed to pass to the next cell, if it gets too much shout the safe word and it stops as does your chance of winning the cash). The book flip flops about a fair bit, we go between the characters and get huge backstories on them. We also have statements from the actual players of the game in the lead up to/post murder.

I think I thought it was going to be more horror, it isn't, no doubt the escape room bits are a wee bit gore giving, lots of blood, show and tell, sure only one group has ever won despite the money lure so you know it isn't a walk in the park. However that is all it really is, the greater focus is on the characters, their back stories and the players in the game.

It took me out the story a lot because we bounced so much and was it really relevant to know XYZ although some parts absolutely yes. I got the special edition and love the look of it, the inside has a map of sorts showing you a visual of the cells. It was ok, I didn't love it, I didn't hate it so 3/5 for me.

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