Title: The Escape Room
Author: Megan Goldin
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Date of Publication: July 30, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Four Wall Street finance hot shots are invited by their company to an escape room. How bad can it be? The rules are simple: Solve the puzzles to escape. They quickly discover that this escape room is unlike any other: it’s in a cramped elevator. The puzzles are also different from typical escape rooms. The questions are personal… and the stakes are high. There’s also one puzzle that’s up for the reader to solve. Which one of them is a killer?
The Escape Room is gripping from its very first page. The writing is fast-paced and engaging. While characters are fleshed out quite nicely and there is a lot of description and introspection, the plot never lags. Every word serves a special purpose, drawing the reader deeper and deeper into the pages.
There are two timelines in the novel. There’s the one with the escape room. Sylvie, Jules, Sam, and Vincent all work on the same team at Stanhope, a top-tier finance company. The company has lost some big clients in the last quarter, and all four of them are worried about losing their jobs. And when they receive a strange invitation to an escape room, how can they to refuse?
The second timeline follows Sara Hall as she gets her first job out of her MBA at Stanhope. She had wanted to become a doctor, but her parents are sick, and she needed a job that would pay right away so that she could cover their medical bills. Once she arrives at Stanhope, she’s assigned to work closely with Sylvie, Jules, Sam, and Vincent…
Both timelines are engaging and fit seamlessly together. There are many little cliffhangers at the end of chapters that left me reading way past my bedtime. The novel also has a lot of commentary on sexism in the workplace. The world of finance is a particularly bad culprit for this.
My only complaint is that the escape room clues are a little on the nose. I found it a little unrealistic that these high-flying finance geniuses couldn’t solve the puzzles with a quick glance. The first puzzle made sense–they wouldn’t expect it to be personal. But after that? One of the clues was a riddle that I heard and thought was clever in elementary school. The fact that it was a clue for adults made me chuckle.
As mentioned before, the novel is set at a top-tier finance firm on Wall Street. Everything that Goldin writes emphasizes this. She does a lot of designer brand name dropping, which accentuates this quite nicely. She also does something that a lot of books don’t do–by putting price tags on everything. Salaries, the cost of designer suits, etc. is all spelled out for the reader. For the average person like me, the cost of things was slightly stressful, which I think was the author’s purpose. Sara doesn’t have much money, and a lot of what she’s making has to go back to pay her parents’ medical bills and their rent, this writing technique instills the anxiety that Sara Hall feels about money into the reader. Also, it made me think that maybe I should go back to school for an MBA.
Sara Hall gets the first-person POV scenes. She’s clearly the main character. She has quite a bit of character development, and she is a likeable and relatable protagonist. Goldin shows the deterioration of her relationship with her family as Sara becomes more and more caught up in the world of finance. The four people trapped in the elevator, on the other hand, are not at all likeable, which is clearly the point that the author was trying to make. Vincent, Sam, Jules, and Sylvie are each loathsome in a unique way that has nothing to do with the fact that they’re money-grubbing and ambitious to a fault. This should have made each of the characters interchangeable (aren’t all Wall Street types the same?), but Goldin distinguishes them quite nicely in their flaws, with their complicated pasts, intriguing presents and uncertain futures.
I recommend this book to anyone looking for an intense and quick read. If you’re a slower reader, you shouldn’t pick this up too close to bedtime, or you’ll never get to sleep.
*Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for the ARC for review*
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