Cover Image: Reprieve


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Member Reviews

I need to lie down now. 

It has been eons since I've started and finished a book in one sitting, but I could not stop. This combination of courtroom transcripts, with an incredibly rich buildup to the climax in Cell Five, was completely addicting. There's a lot for me to sit with and digest now; the impact race and gender had across the storylines, the range of pity and anger and frustration and joy I felt, quickly going from one to the other and not knowing which way was the *right* way to feel. 

In short, I loved every minute. This will be a killer book for anyone tangentially interested in horror, especially in haunted houses and escape rooms.
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This was everything I love in a good thriller - unreliable narrators, multiple viewpoints, and a plot that keeps you guessing until the bitter end. The concept was unique, and I think this perfectly primed to be a great read for Halloween! My one and only gripe is that it seemed like the ending was pretty rushed. The book spent the majority of the time developing and molding these characters with unique backgrounds and perspectives. Then, at the end, what happens to the antagonists and their families and friends seems to be an afterthought. Overall, I enjoyed the book, but think the ending could have had more luster.
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Reprieve is certainly a page-turner, and I do want to like it. It's a novel on the longer side as they go, and as with novels of its length, it attempts to cover an enormous amount of ground: fetishization, minority-relations, gay politics in the 90's. I appreciated the structure of the book, in which transcripts / interviews / documents are interleaved with the actual events in the haunted house which are in turn interspersed with chapters of rotating narration by each main character. This all sounds a bit complicated but the pacing was executed with precision and aplomb. Mattson navigates narrative tension beautifully.

But there were just some areas of this book that fell short for me. The characters felt somehow... unreal, disingenuous, under-examined. There are certain turns at which important information was dispensed with almost perfunctorily. For example, Kendra's relationship with her father. Yes, Mattson had established an undercurrent of distrust mixed with vague suggestions toward a time in which it hadn't been so, and this later comes out in a moment when Kendra asks her cousin about his thoughts on her father, but it never really proceeds or deepens from there, there are no moments from which a reader can make their own evaluation of that question. It's just hazy.

Similarly, the passage with Boomsri in which her background story to becoming a prostitute is detailed in a single paragraph was an almost cliched treatment of what a writer might imagine a Thai prostitute to be: vague references to monsoons and illness. It didn't feel girded by the sort of research that lends real authenticity to a story. Particularly, the moments in which Mattson wrote as Kendra or Bryan just didn't feel sustained by a rich undercurrent of knowledge, lived or researched. The emotions didn't feel legible to me. The portions I felt were strongest were the Leonard and Jaidee narration--Mattson writes longing and desperation incredibly well.

Overall, Reprieve was a pageturner, and a valiant effort at wrangling social commentary into the structures of horror, but it fell short in its rendering of particular characters as fully-realized beings.
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Wow! This book took me on a great ride! READ IT! If I say more, I'm afraid I will give away too much!
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"Reprieve" is a slow burn of suspense, told through a mix of courtroom transcripts and narrative alternating between main characters whose lives are drawn together at Quigley House, a "full contact haunt" that becomes the site of a gruesome murder. That would be enough to draw me in, but the book doubles as an examination of racism and racial fetishization, gay politics and the American obsession with horror. Simply put, there's a lot going on here, which kept me turning the pages and kept surprising me. I struggled a bit spending time with so many flawed characters, but I realize that's part of the point, and all of it was hard to look away from even as the plot got more horrifying. Definitely recommend it.
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This book grabbed me by the throat and never let go!   A deep, nail biting piece of horror and crime fiction, but also something so much more. A powerful look at what happens  and what we are capable of when our obsessions, fetishes, biases, and prejudices dehumanize those around us. I was completely riveted. The writing here is absolutely wonderful! Every character feels completely alive. The dialogue is honest and genuinely believable. While I know for sure this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, for me it was an expertly crafted read. Give it a chance!
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This read is certainly one that stays with you, willing you to turn the pages. 

Reprieve takes on the deeply troubling, yet true and strange world of full contact haunts and turns it into a "why have they done it mystery". Told from various points of view the book breaks down each person and their motive to join the contest .I can confidently say, none of the characters are likeable. With that said, I think that was done purposely, although if it was I can't tell why. It might have been nice to have at least one character that grew a bit from their time in the attraction. 

One qualm I did have while reading was the character of Jaidee whom is a gay exchange student  that is painted as obsessive in his love interest of a straight man and in every interaction with men in the story whom he finds attractive. This felt a bit pointed for me as a person in the LGBT community, I cant necessarily say it felt quite right to be typecasting in a way. While I appreciated the complex take on race dynamics that accompanied Jaidee's story I feel that it would have been better explored without weaving it into a gay persons perspective given the stigma that surrounds gay men as a whole in modern day media. 

Each room of the haunt is perfectly spaced between the perspectives of the contestants in it. The read has a psychological aspect to it that is enjoyable. While it may have been a bit easy to see the ending it was still fitting for the genre, It might have been a DNF for me had I realized that no twists would occur necessarily thus garnering only 2 stars for me,.

NetGalley provided this book to me in exchange of an honest review.
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My emotions cannot handle this book.

I really felt... everything with this story. Fear, sadness, anger, love... literally the entire spectrum.

To me this is very much a literary mystery. Sure, there are some "horror" ish elements, but at its core this story is about a group of people overcoming traumatic events and having to face fears greater than they know. It is so, so raw a story. It is full of gripping narration and characters who you do not know if you can trust. I had to keep asking myself "is what I know right now the TRUTH or is it just what the author wants me to know in this very moment?"

If you like mysteries that feature a grand cast of characters that you might not be able to trust, pick this up.
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