ARC: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. The Escape Room debuts July 30th.

Escape rooms—barely a thing five years ago, it turns out that friends and families really like to feel like they’re participating in a warm, friendly, Saw-like experience. (I kid—escape rooms are pretty awesome.) So it makes sense that having swept like wildfire across the globe, escape rooms have also infiltrated the subscription box business, graced the silver screen, and, at last, crawled their way into publishing.

The premise of the book is great—a bunch of investment bankers are lured to an elevator escape room, only to find out that the corporate team-building exercise they were promised is not what it appears to be. Yet great premises don’t necessarily make great books. A skillful writer could do a lot here, but the writing got in the way of the story at every turn. Each page was filled with wooden language and plodding narration. This is a real “I did X. Then I did Y. Then I did Z” experience, to the extent that there are actually a surprisingly small amount of detailed scenes in the book, given how zoomed-out our literary camera lens is. And when we do get some details, they always seem like the wrong thing. I don’t know how many descriptions of expensive investment banker wardrobes there were in this book, but it had to be… ten? Twenty? Fifty? Meanwhile, all you want is more cool escape room details, but it felt like there were only five clues to the whole room. For the vast majority of their time in the escape room the bankers just sit there, waiting to be let out.

I will say that I appreciated the back-and-forth POV chapter switches from first to third. The third person sections follow the entrapped bankers, while the first person sections track a rookie investment banker’s experience a few years prior. This variety of POV switching is a bold narrative choice, and with a more honed and experienced voice this could have worked beautifully—but because of the distant point of view, stiff language, constant head-hopping, and lack of escape room intrigue, I found myself dreading the third-person sections.

So I appreciate what this book wanted to be, and I’ll eagerly read a different thriller with an escape room premise. But Goldin’s take on escape rooms unfortunately missed the mark, so I have a difficult time recommending it.

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