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.
INTRODUCING A NEW LITERARY STAR
***JAMES HAN MATTSON***
'An eventual American classic' - KIESE LAYMON
'Reprieve takes horror as its subject, while also using the genre as its means, delivering twists and fright and the kind of storytelling that keeps you turning pages' RUMAAN ALAM
'A timely, devastating story about intersecting lives drawn to a dark and frightening place . . . Reprieve is the rare novel that will make your heart pound with terror while it aches with grief' JUNG YUN
'Surprising and spellbinding, a page-turner that keeps you guessing right until the explosive end' T. GERONIMO JOHNSON
'Reprieve takes horror as its subject, while also using the genre as its means, delivering twists and fright and the kind of storytelling that keeps you turning pages' - Rumaan Alam, bestselling author of Leave the World Behind
'An eventual American classic that is unrelenting in its beauty and incisive cultural critique' - Kiese Laymon, bestselling author of Heavy: An American Memoir
'A timely, devastating story about intersecting lives drawn to a dark and frightening place . . . Reprieve is the rare novel that will make your heart pound with terror while it aches with grief' - Jung Yun, author of Shelter
'Surprising and spellbinding, Mattson’s latest offering is a page-turner that keeps you guessing right until the explosive end . . . A must-read!' - T. Geronimo Johnson, bestselling author of Welcome to Braggsville
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 76 members
I don’t know where to start with this book it gripped me and didn’t let me go, it was a nail-biting, on the edge of my seat wild ride that will stay with me for a long time. It is a powerful examination oh what human beings are capable of when biases, prejudices, fetishes, obsessions and anything else dehumanize the people around us and make us completely insensitive to their plights. The writing is excellent, the flow and pacing is good and the characters are well developed. I was totally gripped and although this won’t be a read that everyone loves, I just could not put it down.
An absolute beast of a book - in the best possible sense. I couldn't put it down. This was such a clever idea, and masterfully executed. I loved and felt for every character. Brilliant.
From the day i started this book I'd been hyping it up to anyone who would listen and I'm glad to say that it remained compelling until the very end. The characters felt like real believable people, the writing was interesting, the story original, and really why has no one set a crime novel in an escape room before? The chronology jumps around a LOT but somehow never ends up being confusing. I enjoyed this a lot! (Recieved for free in advance from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review)
I had a blast reading this. Quigley House is a full-contact haunted house where teams of 4 people attempt to go through five cells to win a pretty cash prize. It's all fun and giggles (though not really) until someone gets murdered. Reprieve tells you who has been murdered and who the killer is right off the bat, yet through snippets of the trial, interrogations, flashbacks, and following the characters you end up understanding how everyone ended up playing this crazy thing and why it ended this way. I have to say I became obsessed with the book since the instant I saw it in NetGalley and I'm SO glad this didn't disappoint. Highly recommend it.
This book is incredible on so many levels its actually quite hard to know where to begin. With the basics I guess. If you are a fan of horror you'll love this. A creepy house, a dangerously addictive game to play where money can be won -if you can face down the scares and don't shout Reprieve. I mean how brilliant is that,especially given that the author has a keen eye for excellent characterisation and will make you love or detest the contestants before their challenge even begins. You also know this is a game that pulls no punches and not everyone will make it out alive.. But Reprieve serves another purpose. Without giving too much away, this is also a blistering social commentary on the world we live in, on race and identity and the real bias of human interaction whether it is purposeful or not. I adored it. Reprieve is wildly entertaining and also hugely intelligent, written in a literary style that engages throughout and with an immersive, descriptive sense that gets inside your head. Hugely thought provoking whilst covering you in blood. I mean what else could you ask for from your horror novel. Highly Recommended.
Reprieve is a novel that combines horror with an exploration of people and social dynamics, as an unlikely group try to compete in a full contact haunted house escape room. In 1997, four contestants take part in Quigley House, a controversial full contact horror experience that you must make it through collecting red envelopes and not shouting the safe word, 'reprieve'. However, in the final cell, a man breaks in and kills one of the contestants. Combining the stories of some of the people there that night—an employee who encouraged her cousin to take part, a hotel manager drawn down a questionable path, and a gay international student looking for belonging—with testimony, it turns out that who is to blame might be more complex. I was drawn into this novel by the distinctive, bright cover and the blurb, which sounded unique and intriguing, and it did not disappoint. From the start, which opens with a transcript about what happened that night, you have questions, but the book doesn't focus just on exactly what occurred, but sets up the backstory of some of the main characters, exploring their lives and motivations that led them to being at Quigley House that night. In particular, Kendra, a teenager who loves horror, has just been uprooted to Nebraska, and feels out of place in a majority white area but has her cousin to rely on, and Jaidee, a Thai student who goes to college in Nebraska to look for his former English teacher who he has a crush on, had intriguing stories, exploring not just choices and motivations, but race and fitting in. The combination of the tension of the horror side of the book, as snippets are given of the team working through the cells of Quigley House, and the exploration of the characters, especially around racism and fetishisation which comes out through Kendra, Jaidee, and Leonard's stories in different ways, works very well, making a complex yet gripping novel that shows that horror as a genre isn't so simple. There's some interesting questioning of horror tropes too, and around the representation of non-white people in horror, especially black characters being killed, and what this might mean for black horror fans. In general, the book doesn't shy away from depicting uncomfortable situations, not in terms of horror (though some people might find the Quigley House scenes scary), but things like culpability when a man's downward spiral becomes manipulated by someone else, or when someone tries so hard to be white. What's clever is that the horror house elements almost become a reprieve (yep...) from the complexity of the lives of the characters, because jump scares would be easier to unpick than racism, prejudice, and complicity. To quickly summarise Reprieve, I'd go for 'come for the full contact haunted escape room, stay for the complex social commentary'. It's impressive how well crafted this book is in terms of structure and the ways the characters connect, though fans of straight 'horror' might be disappointed at the lack of twists and turns.
This was such a thought-provoking and tense book. Quigley House is a full-contact escape room where teams of 4 attempt to go through 5 cells without saying the safeword to receive a cash prize. We follow a group through the house until just before the last room a man makes his way into the cell and kills one of the contestants. As we weave through the circumstances that brought all these characters to this house we realise just what prejudices and beliefs led to the tragedy occurring. First off, I thought this was a literary masterpiece. The style of slowly delivered information painting a picture of just who these characters are when you already know the outcome adds a new layer to the usual storytelling. The use of court transcripts embedded between particularly highlighting their perceptions of the event. It's safe to say that the characters here were written beautifully. I found none but 2 to be likeable, good people but even though we switch POV I didn't find that any of the characters were annoying or uninteresting. I also didn't find that there were any perspectives I didn't want to see. Each gave a new diverse point of view. The characters were so glaringly imperfect humans in such a way that you relate but also find it interesting to see. The setting itself is something new to me and the idea of a full-contact horror house as the backdrop of this exploration is so different and interesting to me. It's not a generic social horror or thriller and offers conflicting opinions or perspectives while getting its point across. The only thing that brought this down for me was the ending, while you understand how everything came about I still had a large number of questions. I'm not entirely sure whether it's me just missing the inference but this book did leave me both frustrated and annoyed. Overall I felt like I got a lot out of it and it was a very interesting read, I would recommend.
Like all great books in this genre the true horror comes in the 'real life' scenes - love, loss, racism, the grooming of a vulnerable man are the real scares here - although there are some nice jumps in the horror locked room game. This is a really refreshing take on the genre - a great read.
Reprieve - the safe word you need if you're going to play the game! 1997 and to win the big bucks you need to complete the escape room course but what horrors are waiting for you inside? From the start, this book had me gripped, the courtroom scenes recalling the events of 1997 and then the shift back to when the contestants took part. James Han Mattson is a new literary talent who has created a level of suspense and detail in his first novel that is sure to be a winner with those that like their horror realistic. The narrative explores so many topics including prejudice, racism, LGBTQ, flawed characters, messed up lives, fear, love, hope and hate all wrapped up in a nasty, terrifying game where the contestants have come together from various diverse backgrounds. Reprieve - I'm going to get out and say no more - you need to read this book!
Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for an ARC of this book. Release date: 5th October 2021. The initial description of ‘Reprieve’ pulled me in and it’s concept delivered so well. Set in Nebraska, and revolving around the infamous Quigley House, Mattson brings a whole cast of characters to life. Each characters’ motives and quirks are slowly revealed and the connections between them make the story. I felt some genuine emotion towards some of the characters (Love you, Kendra) and Mattson creates sympathy and empathy with those who really needed some love… (Looking at you, Jaidee and Leonard…) I found the story a little slow to start, wondering how the characters’ backstories would effect their eventual roles in the trial, but it didn’t take long to learn to love this style. It flits between backstory and the ‘cells’ in the Quigley House, and the more information that was given, the more I was trapped in the story. The cells of the house give a vivid insight into the horror world, and it’s easy to imagine the violence and mystery there. I loved the juxtaposition of the Quigley family and anyone outside misunderstanding the whole idea – as a horror fan, it often feels like others really don’t understand the obsession with the supernatural and spooky… I felt that some issues (i.e. race and identity) felt a little forced into the story in places, but play a poignant part and bring their much needed message into the light. Towards the end, this felt more like a ploy on the part of the interviewer and fit better with the story. What does the message of the events actually need to be? It leaves it up to you to decide, and was definitely a part of the story that helps you to reflect after reading. Overall, I found the story engaging and compelling. It had the right balance of attempting to make the reader uncomfortable, and giving information to rebalance emotions. If anything, it could have got weirder. A definite must-read for any horror and escape room fans, if only to make you nervous about your next one…
Quigley House in Nebraska is the most brutal haunted house/escape room game that you can play; waivers must be signed before you can even step in to the house and contestants travel for miles to win the prize money but only one team has ever won. Kendra a young girl who moves with mother to Nebraska, Bryan her cousin, Jaidee, Victor and his fiancée Jane as well as Leonard are all swept up into the madness of a game and under the spell of John Quigley himself but someone won't survive the night. From the first page I was completely gripped; the novel combines the horror/escape rooms with the lives of the contestants being just as absorbing and dealing with themes such as racism and sexuality. This is a story that stayed with me long after I'd finished reading it and will be recommending to everyone. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review
An escape room game with a safe word. Full contact. You can be attacked but not attack back. If you can hold your nerve and complete all six rooms you win a cash prize. But how big a cash prize does it have to be to endure the horrors, suffer the mental trauma, and become dehumanised in the process? This book had me hooked from the start. It opens with themes of loss, confused sexuality, coming of age angst, race struggles, compounded by leaving the only home behind that you have even known to move across the country. Then as if that is not enough, add in manipulation, social engineering, deceit, obsession, and at least one twisted mind into the mix. The characters were beautifully created, with just the right amount of backstory given to each, so that when the story crests towards its ending you feel you really know them. You have learned their strengths, their weaknesses, how they have broken. The pace of this story, jumping back and forth on the timelines, the flashes to the horror of the escape room, all culminate into a horrifyingly gripping read. Not for everyone, but it will leave you contemplating life that bit more, and perhaps wondering, just how much would it take for you to end up like one of the contestants in Cell Six! *I received this book from NetGalley for review but all opinions are my own.
Where to start on this book?... Dark, gripping, horrifying and intensely human, it's a tale of obsession, manipulation and misunderstanding - a sure-fire classic horror story.
If there was a full-contact escape room, full of horrors, an escape room where there had only ever been one winner, would you do it? What if there was a massive cash prize? If you're reading this review of a horror book, you're probably going to say yes. But this escape room is different. And there's a chance not everyone will get out alive. There is more to this book than meets the eye. On one hand, there is the story of the attempt to get through the cells in Quigley House, but by far the most impressive part of Reprieve are the deep stories of the characters and their intertwining lives. I really felt as though I got to know the people involved, and it made the culmination of the piece all the more satisfying. There were several instances illustrating why people should be careful judging others, which was neatly done by Mattson, and that is down to the clever narrative voices. If someone repeatedly says horrible things, they are a horrible person, right? Well, read it and find out. What I'm trying to say is that Reprieve isn't a normal horror novel. Sure, it has gore, it has horrible things happen, there are shocks and twists, but this has a literary feel to it, and I would love to read more from Mattson. Thanks to James Han Mattson, NetGalley, and Bloomsbury Publishing for this copy.
This is without a shadow of a doubt one attraction I would not want to visit. You would need to be completely bonkers and fearless to want to take part in this escape room like game. The cells were horrifying on their own without the added devilish creatures that beat you up, electrocute you, punch, kick, scratch you and any other torture that you can think off. This book has it all and it truly is hair raising, terrifying and full of terror in more ways than one. The characters are believable and I felt so sorry for Jaidee, he's an immigrant and all he wanted to do was fit in and find his place in society, so he tried to change his self so he looked like the "Normal" kids at his college, he tried so hard to make friends but he just got laughed at. But he had more guts than any other character in the book. This is a horror story with twists and the overall plot is amazing. So watch out Stephen King there's a new horror writer in town.
I expected the majority of this book to take place in the house but it really added to the story that the reader has some insight of the characters and their lives prior to the house. It's such a clever idea, setting a book inside a haunted house/escape room, horror readers will enjoy this but the concept and the characters will keep you hooked. The writing is really great and the flow of the narrative worked really well, there was no confusion jumping between timelines and characters. Not to give too much away it's not just about characters trying to escape this seemingly terrifying haunted house, it focuses on race and identity (though it's not 'heavy' in the way it's explored. I look forward to reading more from this author!
This book was clever and suspenseful from the first page. A real delight. It’s quite rare to have something like this – so clean, well-crafted, but also moving – that I didn’t want it to end.
James Han Mattson writes an excellent literary horror novel about an escape room that ends with a real murder. At the end of the escape room is a cash prize if the whole team makes it without yelling the safe word "reprieve." The story is told through courtroom transcripts and flashbacks to the game in 1997. The suspenseful plot is filled with plenty of twists and strong characterisation throughout. The setting is entirely atmospheric. Highly recommended!
Enough to put you off an escape room for good! Working their way through consecutive horrendous experiences to win the coveted prize an unlikely band of people face fear, horror and a death in Quigley house. The book jumps around chronologically but in a way that is easy to follow and the reveal of the why and the how is drip fed to you to keep you guessing. A great read!
‘You know that’s where the Quigley House is, right?’ - I loved this book so much and can’t properly find the words to describe just why. From so many different aspects, it just ticked all my boxes!! - 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. - At times the layout of this book and story telling took me back to my time reading Miracle Creek, which is always going to be a good thing as it’s one of my favourite books to date! The author has seamlessly woven an intense thriller making you flip the pages to see what happens nexts with a heart string pulling look at what it is to live in America in this day and age. A truly enjoyable read from start to finish! Highly recommend!! - Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for the ARC!!