NPR called this book a “gory feast” and that’s one way to describe this novel – it’s packed with fascinating character development, as well as horrors real and imagined. I highly recommend this book – despite being about 400 pages I flew through it (partly my post-school-year euphoria reading rate, but also highly correlated with a great book). The author is clearly expressing a point of view, without sacrificing the quality of the story itself.
The story centers on the Quigley House. a full-contact escape room situated outside of Lincoln in Nebraska (side note: are there such places? Who would want to visit a place where the actors can manhandle you?). From the outset we know that something horrifically violent has taken place, and through court transcripts, witness interviews and chapters that alternate in perspective and time we learn about the origin and outcome of this crime. It’s both thrilling, with a few delicious twists, and utterly tragic. Contestants at Quigley House must progress through 5 Cells, finding a certain number of envelopes to move on to the next cell. If the group makes it past the final cell, there is a chance for them to win $60,000 (the story is set in 1997, when that amount of money would have paid for more than your annual gas bill). Despite the financial prize and the general thrill-seeking nature of human in the late 1990s, for some reason people are just not that into the idea of trying to make it through five full rooms of strangers being allowed to straight up terrorize you in the middle of Nebraska. The owner, giving off major Trump vibes, is bereft on the inside but cool as a cucumber on the outside. I don’t want to give away too many details about the plot, I think something to enjoy about this book is the process of realizing who and what you are reading about. I’ll say that this book is well worth it for a diverse cast of characters, a swiftly moving plot, and a depth of understanding of the human condition that is the mark of any quality novel.