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The Escape Room


The Escape Room

Greed and arrogance are qualities that permeate the personalities of the characters in Megan Goldin's THE ESCAPE ROOM. The first chapter offers the reader clues that the story will not end well for some of these people, but just how that comes about is part of the mystery and the thrill.

Four hedge fund traders at the Wall Street firm of Stanhope and Sons are commanded to appear for a team-building exercise. Vincent, Jules, Sylvie and Sam have better things to do, but they are extremely competitive and want to get the best bonus possible. So they all show up to the not-quite-completed office building and enter the elevator. At first, it seems like any other escape room activity. They assume that after an hour, it will be over whether or not they figure out how to escape. But they slowly come to realize that this is no ordinary escape room. This is personal.

"Goldin's writing is engrossing, and it's truly difficult to put the book down.... A clever, insightful look at Wall Street, THE ESCAPE ROOM is thrilling, well written and just plain fun to read."

The chapters alternate between the action in the elevator and those titled "Sara Hall," which are told in first person. Sara details her life and how she came to work at Stanhope and Sons. Unlike many of those at the elite firm who got their positions because of family connections or Ivy League school pedigrees, Sara got hers because of her brains and her persistence --- two qualities that will serve her well over the course of the story.

While cut from a different cloth, those who are in the elevator will do anything to survive, anything to make money. And once stuck there for endless hours, each character's true nature begins to emerge. Goldin reveals the motivation for their past behavior and slowly shares what they have in common --- the secret that they all have carefully hidden for years.

But just as there is no honor among thieves, so do the occupants of the elevator learn some dark secrets that they find extremely surprising --- and, as it turns out, dangerous. What appears to be a simple mind exercise becomes much more over the course of the nearly 40 hours they spend in that elevator together.

Many times throughout the story, Goldin reveals the sexism and degradation that women face in this mostly male profession. She also exposes the obsession with looks and clothing --- even if one works non-stop and barely sleeps, there are lotions and beauty secrets to make one look strong and healthy. The competition is fierce, too, as coworkers vie for the best bonuses and salaries, undercutting the others on their own team to look better. There is no room for kindness or camaraderie in this financial world.

Goldin's writing is engrossing, and it's truly difficult to put the book down. You start the first chapter, and suddenly you need to find out what's going on and how it all ends. While part of the conclusion is revealed at the start, it's still not clear exactly what happened, and Goldin carefully shows the shallowness of those who work long hours for the ability to buy more --- more thousand-dollar suits and shoes, larger homes, better vacations (although they don't have time to take them), pricey cars, and whatever their greed compels them to covet.

Goldin ensures that we only truly care about one character, the only one with depth and a reason for wanting the money. Is she alive or dead? While the reader will guess part of the mystery before the end of the book, the fun is in turning page after page to see how bad it gets in the elevator and how good revenge can be.

Definitely put this book on your TBR list. A clever, insightful look at Wall Street, THE ESCAPE ROOM is thrilling, well written and just plain fun to read.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on August 2, 2019

The Escape Room
by Megan Goldin