Eight contestants, one killer, are you ready to play: The Escape Room by L.D. Smithson #bookreview #TheEscapeRoom

Everything is a clue.
Eight strangers arrive at a remote sea fort off the coast of England. They are here to take part in The Fortress, a mysterious reality TV show in which contestants have to solve a series of complex puzzles. But this is no game, and the consequences of failure are more deadly than anyone anticipated.
No one leaves.

The show’s sinister purpose becomes clear when the first person is evicted from the competition. Instead of being sent home to their family, they are left to die inside a locked room.
The only way out is to win.

Under scrutiny from the watching public, the contestants soon turn on one another. What are they willing to do for wealth and fame? How far will they go to survive? And who is behind it all? The only thing they know for certain is that if they want to escape, they need to win…
Are you ready to play?

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Hi and welcome to my review of The Escape Room!

Eight contestants. One killer. Are you ready to play? With that tagline, that cover and that blurb? Hell yes, I was! And what fun I had!

Let’s be frank, none of the components of The Escape Room is terribly novel. It’s a locked room mystery in essence. Then we have the reality TV angle that has become quite popular recently, presumably under the influence of shows like The Traitors, as well as a puzzle element: contestants are locked up in an old sea fort and have to solve puzzles to escape (what could possibly go wrong…). And there’s also a podcast angle, which I’m sure you’ll agree has been popping up a lot lately. 

Then why should you pick up The Escape Room? Because the combination of these elements and the execution as a whole is in fact rather novel and manages to pleasantly surprise even the most jaded reader (i.e. me)!

In all honesty, I’ll never get bored of locked room mysteries, but The Escape Room gets bonus points for being set in an atmospheric old sea fort surrounded by nothing but waves and with no means to escape.
The reality TV angle works like a charm because you can just feel something is horribly off but the contestants don’t realise it until it’s too late. And I as the reader didn’t fully grasp the sheer evilness of the game either, not until the end of the book.
The puzzles reminded me of Janice Hallett’s books, but way WAY darker. If you are so inclined, you can puzzle along with the candidates.
The podcast angle is valuable because it allows the reader to process and learn more after the facts. Kinda like when contestants on reality shows are interviewed separately and get to explain their actions and decisions. And there is another important side to this angle, which I am not at liberty to disclose right now, but you should just find out for yourself.

I had a fantastic time with The Escape Room. It’s a fast-paced and dark thriller that’s both character-driven and plot-driven. I don’t know if it’s entirely plausible throughout, but I do know I couldn’t care less. I would happily recommend it to fans of the genre.

The Escape Room is out now in hardcover, digital and audio formats, with the paperback to follow in June.

Thanks to Bantam (Random House UK, Transworld Publishers) for the digital review copy. All opinions are my own.

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