“Most people didn’t make it to Cell Six, he said. Most called out the safe word – reprieve – after the first Cell. It was that intense.
When Bryan, Jaidee, Victor and Jane team up to compete at a full-contact escape room, it seems simple. Hold your nerve through six terrifying challenges; collect all the red envelopes; win a huge cash prize.
But the real horror is unfolding outside of the game, in a series of deceits and misunderstandings fuelled by obsession and prejudice. And by the end of the night, one of the contestants will be dead.
A startlingly soulful exploration of complicity and masquerade, Reprieve combines the psychological tension of classic horror with searing social criticism, and seamlessly threads together trial transcripts, evidence descriptions, and deeply layered individual narratives to present a chilling portrait of American life.”
Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Reprieve by James Han Mattson. Reprieve was published by Bloomsbury on 5th October 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in 2022. I chose to read a free eARC of Reprieve but that has in no way influenced my review.
Woah! This book. I tried so hard to resist Reprieve. I’ve fallen behind a little in my planned reading and my poor attention-hungry TBR is suffering. However, certain books, as soon as you see them, have an inexplicable hold over you. Which is exactly what happened with Reprieve. With its eye-catching cover and intriguing plot, I was hooked before I even cracked open the first page! Sadly for the rest of my TBR, Reprieve was moved straight to the top of the pile.
John Forrester is a legend within horror circles. He is the owner of Quigley House. A full contact, ultra terrifying haunt/escape room which features six cells and a prize of $60,000 for making it to the end. The latest team to the take on the challenge have an edge though. They’re determined to claim the prize and go down in history as only the second group to win. But Quigley House has other plans…
An unsettling, unforgettable read where horrors creep around every corner. Reprieve is a book which shines a powerful light on social inequalities across modern day America. Hugely topical and quite the eye-opener, the author has created a novel which delights in making its readers feel uncomfortable, and rightly so! I couldn’t put this book down. A chilling exploration of manipulation and greed, I was drawn into the story from the outset and now feel quite bereft that it’s over. Reprieve will stay with me for some time to come though, I can tell you!
The concept the plot is built around is just my cup of tea. A horror themed escape room in an old converted house. Complete the timed challenge in each room and collect the required number of red envelopes as you go. The only thing in your way: crazed, mutilated characters – the stuff your worst nightmares are made of, gallons of fake blood and actual, real-life pain as you’re zapped by a shock wand or beaten up a bit (all within reason, of course!). If it all gets too much (and for most contestants, it does!) then call out the safe word, ‘reprieve’. But you can wave goodbye to a share of the $60,000.
The story is told from several points of view including a court transcript. The characters in the book are all well written and elicited some sort of emotion within me. I liked to see the different sides of the story, how the author used those different POVs to build up to the finale of the book. And what a tense and unnerving denouement it was!
Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Reprieve is a compelling, shocking story which I strongly recommend to those who don’t mind a drop of blood in their fiction. Whilst the escape room concept is a flipping marvellous one, it’s really only the device the author uses to bring everything together. Reprieve is so, so much more than its blurb. Strong characters, an atmospheric, somewhat unnerving setting and a very important take-home message. Recommended.
I chose to read and review a free eARC of Reprieve. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.
Reprieve by James Han Mattson was published in the UK by Bloomsbury on 5th October 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in 2022 (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |
James Han Mattson was born in Seoul, Korea and raised in North Dakota. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he has received grants from the Michener-Copernicus Society of America and Humanities North Dakota. He has been a featured storyteller on The Moth, and has taught at the University of Iowa, the University of Cape Town, the University of Maryland, the George Washington University, Murray State University, and the University of California – Berkeley. In 2009, he moved to Korea and reunited with his birth family after 30 years of separation.
He is the author of two novels: The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves and Reprieve. He is currently the fiction editor of Hyphen Magazine.