Jane’s Pick: Reprieve by James Han Mattson

Quigley House is an escape room designed like a haunted house – the twist is that it is full-contact – the actors, dressed in horror costumes interact and menace the contestants. Contestants are paired in groups of 4 and must use teamwork to get through all 6 cells without using the safe word “Reprieve”. If they can do that, they win $60,000. On the night in question, something goes horribly wrong and one of the contestants is killed.

Although Reprieve is set in a haunted house, the story is terrifying because it is NOT a ghost story. The terror is full on human and that makes it so much more scary. The tension builds slowly, as the book is told in interweaving flashbacks of the main characters, but – wow – the slow burn is so disturbing I had to periodically put the book down to temper my rising anxiety. The real horror of this story is not found in the gore, although there is plenty of that, but in the way the characters unhinge – how hurt, misunderstanding, and isolation encroach on the character’s psyches and lead to increasingly radical, racist, sexist and misanthropist thoughts which eventually leaves them open to manipulation.

Reprieve holds a mirror to our own society and it is scary!