The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

The Escape Room
Megan Goldin


When Vincent deVries of Stanhope & Sons summons his Wall Street investment banker team to a compulsory meeting, the last thing they expect is an escape room activity in an elevator. They grudgingly put their plans on hold. Sam has missed his flight to Antigua and his wife is livid. Sylvie might still make her flight to Paris to meet her boyfriend, but she hasn’t packed. And Jules has downed a couple whiskeys on his way over. The group has intense, cutthroat relationships with each other and there are rumors of looming layoffs. Each knows they can’t afford to miss the meeting, which by the way is in an unfinished office building. Even Vincent, their boss, is unsure who really called them together.

In a locked and stalled elevator, the group goes to work on the cryptic clues, encouraged as they advance to the next levels. But soon they suspect they are trapped and begin to turn on each other. As time passes, dynamics between Vincent’s team deteriorate, leading to shocking power plays. What kind of life or death exercise is this?

In alternating chapters, we meet Sara Hall, a former Stanhope banker, who tells of joining Vincent’s team and enduring the grueling hours and impossible deadlines that are part of the ultra-competitive banking scene. Sara’s story advances as the elevator exercise deteriorates, and the reader must wait for the big reveal.

I enjoyed this modern and original setting that uses a tried and true dynamic – forcing people who hate each other into dangerous and confined situations and seeing what happens. I’ve always been a reader who likes to simply go along for the ride, instead of working out the angles, and I like how the conflicts between Sylvie, Jules, Sam and Vincent develop. I think the author does a great job showing how Vincent continues to try to lead the group, despite the hatred between its members.

Although the finish was a little far-fetched, I was otherwise satisfied with how the author tied up the loose ends and I liked reading about the double-edged flash and glamour of the investment banking world. I recommend The Escape Room to readers who like mysteries and thrillers in which characters are pushed to the extreme.

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Book Review: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies
William Golding

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What happens to a group of young British schoolboys when their plane is shot down and they land on an island, lost in the Pacific? They are alone, with no grownups to tell them what to do. How do they live? Who leads? Who resolves conflicts? Who survives?

Ralph is only twelve, but he’s a natural leader and the boys vote him chief. Jack is strong and wants to hunt. Piggy is smart, but he’s fat, asthmatic and nearly blind without his glasses. And most of the boys, especially Jack, hate Piggy for his weaknesses.

Lord of the Flies is the ultimate story of group dynamics. It’s both engrossing and frightening to see the boys struggle with the enormous stresses of survival and the additional problems of trying to govern themselves. They come up with impressive ideas and seem to be off to a good start. But as time passes, Ralph and Jack emerge as competing leaders. Their system begins to crack when priorities alternate in importance. While Jack and his hunters care only about killing pigs, Ralph knows that keeping the fire is most important. As Ralph clings to the hope of being rescued, Jack immerses himself in the strategies of the hunt. Amid questions of leadership and the fear of a mysterious beast, Ralph and Jack position themselves for power and control. No spoilers here, but what follows is an alarming descent, full of savagery and devoid of morals.

I really enjoyed rereading Lord of the Flies. It’s a great example of how groups break down under stress, how power can shift between people, and how the difference between right and wrong is either held onto or altogether ignored. While the story would be interesting with a group of adults, placing children in the situation instead shows the how the behavior develops regardless of age. And the loss of innocence makes the story all the more intense and sad.

Golding has included a great combination of characters, with plenty of conflict and things to think about. I especially like the friendship between Ralph and Piggy, how it starts and how it changes.  Simon is the one I think about the most.  He is weak, but he’s prophetic and I still want the boys to pay more attention to him.  In addition to these characters, one of the most interesting things Golding shows is how there’s a whole group of boys who are just along for the ride. They don’t seem to care either way what decisions are made – they just follow the one in power. It’s easy to make that parallel to group situations around us, both large and small.  You can just roll your eyes when the situation is an ordinary one, but just imagine when it’s a matter of survival.

I got a lot more out of this book the second time around and I give this excellent story five stars for its timeless relevance.

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