Book Review: Reprieve

REPRIEVE | James Han Mattson
10.05.2021 | William Morrow
Rating: 4/5 stars


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, boobytraps, and ghoulishly costumed actors. If their group can endure these horrors without shouting the safe word, “reprieve”, they’ll win a substantial cash prize. Only one group has ever succeeded. Before the group can complete the challenge, a man breaks into the cell and kills one of the contestants. 

REPRIEVE is one of the most unique books I’ve read in 2021, from the concept to the characters. Mattson has brought to life a full-contact haunted house/escape room that I would never in a million years sign up for, but couldn’t look away from reading the chapters describing the setup. Everything was incredibly detailed and I felt as though I could truly imagine what the characters were seeing and experiencing. In addition to a fantastic setting, Mattson delivers characters that are flawed and realistic. Through each of the characters the reader watches their journeys overlap to the fateful April night and all of the obsessions, prejudices, and misunderstandings that have formed their mental states. Woven together through alternating narratives and  courtroom transcripts, Mattson does a fantastic job of combining social criticism and horror into a novel that is propulsive and eye opening. 

My only issue with this book that stopped it from being a 5 star read was the last epilogue-style chapter that felt completely out of place and unnecessary. I know the goal was to wrap things up in a tidy package, but I felt that the previous chapters had already covered everything the reader needed to draw their own conclusions.

50 States of Horror Challenge: Nebraska

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository

A huge thank you to William Morrow for my gifted copy!

Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.

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