Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

In Megan Goldin's unforgettable debut, The Escape Room, four young Wall Street rising stars discover the price of ambition when an escape room challenge turns into a lethal game of revenge.

Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.

In the lucrative world of finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are at the top of their game. They’ve mastered the art of the deal and celebrate their success in style—but a life of extreme luxury always comes at a cost.

Invited to participate in an escape room challenge as a team-building exercise, the ferociously competitive co-workers crowd into the elevator of a high-rise building, eager to prove themselves. But when the lights go off and the doors stay shut, it quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary competition: they’re caught in a dangerous game of survival.

Trapped in the dark, the colleagues must put aside their bitter rivalries and work together to solve cryptic clues to break free. But as the game begins to reveal the team’s darkest secrets, they realize there’s a price to be paid for the terrible deeds they committed in their ruthless climb up the corporate ladder. As tempers fray, and the clues turn deadly, they must solve one final chilling puzzle: which one of them will kill in order to survive?

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This is a clever morality play for the 21st century. Since the financial crash in 2008, bankers have been society’s easy villains and this story carefully observes the toxic interactions between a group of morally bankrupt Wall Street gods.

From the start, none of the characters in this book are likeable or relateable. The author doesn’t make any effort to move them beyond the tired stereotypes of modern bankers (think drug and alcohol problems, sexual incontinence, casual misogyny, extreme greed, and billion dollar deals signed off in strip clubs). The author’s anti-Wall Street agenda reminds me of a Victorian morality play or post WW2 socialist writing. As readers, we are being taught a lesson about greed and corruption and each character is merely a representation of a specific aspect of our corrupt society.

The story is a puzzle. Alongside the characters in the elevator, readers have to piece together their complicated shared history and try to figure out who is controlling the elevator. Each new revelation reveals more of their ugly past. It took me a few chapters to realise that the story was flipping back and forth in time and back and forth between multiple perspectives. Once I understood the format, I had an easier time piecing the story puzzle together, but I didn’t find this an easy book to get into. I’m also not sure how well the format works – I feel like I guessed the ending far too early and I didn’t care enough for any of the characters to feel at all invested in the outcome.

This story starts with prologue that hints that very bad things have happened in the elevator in an office tower that is still partial under construction. The story switches between the present where Vincent, Jules, Sam, and Sylvie are in the elevator/escape room, and the past, where a recent college graduate named Sara Hall has taken a high paying, high stress job with the people who in the present, was in the elevator.

I’m a reader that likes it when books switch between the past and the present and for the most part is works well here. The only problem was in the middle of the book, I was getting bored with the time spent in the past. I wasn’t particularly connected to Sara as a character and I felt like the situation she was in was partly of her own making. I felt like I was observing Sara’s story rather than being a part of it. I was move interested in the people in the elevator, even though they weren’t the nicest people either. Given it was clear the past was crucial to the present I kept reading.

It is worth hanging on through the slow parts of this story because the latter part it really picks up the pace and in the end was quite thrilling. Secrets are revealed and the well-crafted narrative comes to an immensely satisfying conclusion. The Escape Room turned out to be a good read. It gets a solid three stars from me.

I have to say that one of the draws for reading this book was the endorsement by Lee Child, as his Jack Reacher stories are some of my favourite. It did not match his skill in excitement nor did it have a single redeeming character, but somehow I found that I had to keep reading, because I did want to know just how it played out.

If I were to have my time again, I think I would have avoided the prologue – I won't tell you why if you haven't yet read it! I enjoy books which swap the narrative between characters, and don't even mind the time jumping, which is a good thing as we certainly have to think on our feet around a bit!

There are some seriously unpleasant people in this book, and if you have enjoyed Wall Street, The Devil Wears Prada, or Bonfire of the Vanities, then you will enjoy the selfishness of these Finance Geniuses, who have been making money hand over fist for so long, that their souls have been resold so often the trace has gone cold. It is actually a challenge to find any redeeming characteristics amongst the whole bunch – but sometimes that is fun in itself, and can lighten one's self esteem, as truly no one reading this can be THAT horrible!

I could undoubtedly see this as a film. I will enjoy reading other people's reviews and see how they felt about it.

MEGAN GOLDIN reported from the Middle East for the Associated Press, Reuters, and ABC. During nearly two decades as a journalist, she wrote about war, peace, and international terrorism. After travelling and living all over the world, she resides in Australia with her husband and three sons.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Escape Room by Megan Goldin to read and review.

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