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Publisher's Summary

"Like Whitehead’s The Intuitionist, Alyssa Cole’s When No One Is Watching or Zakiya Dalila Harris’ The Other Black Girl, Reprieve straddles genres in the best possible way.... Sure to spark conversation and debate at book clubs across the land." (Los Angeles Times)

“An eventual American classic that is unrelenting in its beauty and incisive cultural critique.” (Kiese Laymon)

Recommended by New York Times Los Angeles Times • NPR • Today • EsquireO Quarterly Boston GlobeChicago TribuneHarper’s Bazaar • Shondaland • Thrillist • The Millions • Crimereads • XTRA • Tor • Literary Hub • and more!

A chilling and blisteringly relevant literary novel of social horror centered around a brutal killing that takes place in a full-contact haunted escape room - a provocative exploration of capitalism, hate politics, racial fetishism, and our obsession with fear as entertainment. 

On April 27, 1997, four contestants make it to the final cell of the Quigley House, a full-contact haunted escape room in Lincoln, Nebraska, made famous for its monstrosities, booby-traps, and ghoulishly costumed actors. If the group can endure these horrors without shouting the safe word, “reprieve,” they’ll win a substantial cash prize - a startling feat accomplished only by one other group in the house’s long history. But before they can complete the challenge, a man breaks into the cell and kills one of the contestants.

Those who were present on that fateful night lend their points of view: Kendra Brown, a teenager who’s been uprooted from her childhood home after the sudden loss of her father; Leonard Grandton, a desperate and impressionable hotel manager caught in a series of toxic entanglements; and Jaidee Charoensuk, a gay international student who came to the United States in a besotted search for his former English teacher. As each character’s journey unfurls and overlaps, deceit and misunderstandings fueled by obsession and prejudice are revealed, forcing all to reckon with the ways in which their beliefs and actions contributed to a horrifying catastrophe.

An astonishingly soulful exploration of complicity and masquerade, Reprieve combines the psychological tension of classic horror with searing social criticism to present an unsettling portrait of this tangled American life.

©2021 James Han Mattson (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about Reprieve

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  • Overall
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    3 out of 5 stars

creepy escape room story

If you are an escape room enthusiast, this is the novel for you….maybe…well, you most likely won’t go to one in the future….or, maybe you will. So, “Reprieve” is a novel about a “full contact” escape room full of macabre and horror. The deal is, if you can get through the game at the Quigley House in Lincoln Nebraska(of all places), your team will win $60,000. Teams are made of 4, so each person goes home with $15,000! What a deal! All you must do, as you go through the 5 different cells, is realize it’s all make-believe. Oh, and you need to collect all your envelops to win. But how does one get these envelops?? Well, it’s gross. Plus, contestants are touched, prodded, shocked, hit, slapped with slime…need I go on? This is not one of those cozy mystery sorts of stories.

The backstories of the four contestants take up most of the novel. From the start, we know that there was a murder on that night in the escape room. The four contestants are being interviewed by authorities to ascertain what really happened. Weaving into that event are the contestants’ reasons for being at the game.

If I have a complaint, it’s that the backstories were a bit too much. In fact, getting involved in the character stories makes it a bit confusing as to what the relevance is to the main story. It started slow, with all these back stories. It took a while to weave it all together.

Once the retelling of the night started, with the reader learning what happened in each cell, the story picked up. There is some cross-examination pieces that tie everything more together.

It left me wondering, would I put myself through all that to get $15,000? Sounds easy, right? Well, read the book….PTSD is on the menu if you win or not. Of course, Halloween is not my favorite time of year, so, take my opinion with a large lick of salt.

I listened to the audio production narrated by JD Jackson and produced by Harper Audio. Jackson did a fine job!

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A lot of build up

A lot of build up and no real answers or a satisfying ending. Entertaining overall. Loved the performance.

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Excellent narration

Perfect book for a cold October day!!!! Narration was excellent!!!! I really enjoyed the ride

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Great characters Ok story

Was hoping for a good or Halloween listen. I enjoyed the character development immensely but the overall story was so so.

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Good but...

I was expecting more horror and thriller. It's a bit slow to start but it opens to a good novel. The narration is wonderful.

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Good. Sad.

But overall a twee bit heavy handed. The courtroom scenes were also confusing until they weren’t, which was like a third of the way in. I guess I still don’t entirely understand the motive but I think that’s kind of the point. Not for me to not get it, but just that it’s not as overly complicated as I’m used to. I also think it slightly unfair that the reader/listener is supposed to buy these INSANE coincidences and yet the “coincidences” that come up during the trial are so easily dismissed. But I’m just poking around. The book was fine. Story just okay. Keen and decisive writing. Narrator outstanding.