Bibliophile | Contestants play a deadly game in ‘Reprieve’

Reprieve
by James Han Mattson
Bloomsbury Publishing

Quigley House is an old family mansion in Nebraska owned by John Forrester who has created a successful business by constructing scary escape rooms. Teams of four people have to work together to confront their fears in themed closed rooms or cells in order to find envelopes in a certain time so they can move on to the next room.

If a team makes it through the horrors of all five cells without shouting the safe word ‘reprieve’, the competitors win a cash prize, but apparently nobody has ever won. On 27 April 1997, four contestants make it to the final room but a man breaks into the room and kills one of the contestants.

Much of the story is told from the point of view of 17-year-old Kendra Brown who is new to town and has a part-time job at Quigley House. The story actually opens with a ‘Cross-Examination Excerpt’ as authorities try to work out how the murder came about. The trial continues as the compelling narrative takes the four contestants through their journeys to the dangerous obstacle course.

Kendra wasn’t one of the contestants, as people have to be over 18 to participate in the game, but she had convinced her cousin Bryan to take part as there had been hints that they could win with inside help. The other three participants were – Victor Dunlap worked at the local bank and he thought he was helping out with a promotion to advertise Quigley House; his fiancée Jane Roth and Jaidee Charoensik, a student from Thailand who was visiting him and happened to be Bryan’s roommate at university.

Everyone has a story and there are so many misunderstandings in the individual lives before they gather at the house of horrors but once there, survival is their only concern. John Forrester is a creepy, shadowy figure in the background, almost like a puppet master and his friendship with local hotel manager Leonard Grandton seems to have a sinister motive.

If you choose to open this book and read the first two pages, you will not be able to put it down until it is completed. As John warns the reader, fear does terrible things to people and prejudice grows from fear. The only thing to triumph over fear, at least temporarily, is greed.

Lezly Herbert


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