By Ekta R. Garg
July 3, 2019
Release date: July 30, 2019
Rated: Bypass it / 2 stars
When four executives get trapped in an escape room together, they realize that the challenge is more than just finding an exit. It’s about getting out alive. Author Megan Goldin deals her characters harsh circumstances but lets the plot slide toward the end of her debut novel The Escape Room.
On a Friday night, Wall Street executives Vincent, Sylvie, Jules, and Sam receive a mysterious invitation to a team-building exercise. They’re invited to an escape room in one of the company’s new high rises still under construction. None of them want to go, but none of them can decline either. The company, Stanhope and Sons, has been in trouble lately, and rumors of layoffs have everyone nervous. The four execs are nothing if not ambitious, and they’ll do anything to keep their jobs—including participating in a stupid escape room.
They enter the elevator in the skyscraper and realize soon enough that the elevator itself is the escape room challenge. As the senior-most administrator among them, Vincent tries to take control by looking for clues. Sylvie, Jules, and Sam make efforts to help, but the clues are few and far between. Meanwhile, they suspect that Vincent lured them into the elevator in an attempt to make them look bad in front of upper management at the end of the exercise.
The clues go from scarce to bizarre, and it becomes clear that they no longer need to worry about who will win: they need to worry about who will survive. As they try to work out who would bring them into this situation and why, the four discuss the last few years at the firm. The name of a former employee comes up: Sara Hall, newly hired out of college. Their working world is one of ruthless hours and even more ruthless tactics, and Sara just couldn’t keep up. Her dismissal from Stanhope was almost inevitable. Each of the executives can’t help wonder if they’re next.
Author Megan Goldin builds a fair amount of suspense in the novel. The narrative alternates between the executives caught in the elevator and Sara Hall’s experience in working for Stanhope and Sons. Sara’s portions of the book move at a steady pace, and readers will find their curiosity mounting in wondering how she fits into the other half of the book.
Unfortunately, that part of the book drags down the entire story. The novelty of the executives caught in the elevator wears off after it’s made clear that they’re not making much progress in getting out. They hurl insults at one another and even injure one another during heated arguments; beyond that, however, and the odd clue, Vincent, Sylvie, Sam, and Jules don’t engage in much action.
More astute readers may figure out about halfway through why the four have been brought together, and because the novel starts with the end of the story they’ll already know the outcome of the escape room exercise. What is left, then, is the why and how. For those readers who make it to the big reveal at the end, they’ll find it rushed. Details are shared in what could be imagined are breathless tones, as if the characters were running to the end of the book and trying to fit in every single little detail before they get there.
Sara Hall’s portions of the novel are much more interesting than the elevator scenes; it’s a shame the entire book didn’t revolve around her. Goldin could have taken her time to develop Sara’s rise and fall within the company and the consequences of her actions. As it is, because Sara must share time with the four company sharks, readers don’t get to spend as much time with her as they would probably like.
The ambiance of the world of Wall Street feels somewhat familiar; there isn’t much new information offered on the strain of the working hours of real-life executives. Readers may not be able to stick with this one to the end. I recommend they Bypass The Escape Room.