“I’m just gonna read for a bit tonight cos I’ve got an early start tomorrow,” I said as I opened The Escape Room by Megan Goldin. I’d add the hashtag…. #famouslastwords but you can guess what comes next.
Yep. Me finishing the book while drinking wine and alternating between caramello koalas and little triangles of processed cheese, while ensonced in my warm bed at my mother’s for hours after my intended bedtime. *The Escape Room
by Megan Goldin
Published by Michael Joseph
on May 28th 2018
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: Psychological Thriller
When four colleagues at a prestigious Wall Street investment bank are stuck in an office building elevator, their facade of civility quickly peels away. They are forced to confront their secret resentments of each other and the rivalries and office politics they'd always pretended were never there. Working as a team may be the only way they'll get out alive.
Until they discover a secret they can't ignore - one of them is a killer.
This is an intriguing book. Not because of the obvious nature of the book (ie. what’s gonna happen and whodunnit – or who-does-it), but more because it’s hard to work out ‘where’ the book’s going, in some ways. Not to mention the internal quandary of good / bad / evil / just plain stupid mulling around in my mind… and the implications and consequences of each.
The book opens with the climax – so we kinda know what’s gonna eventually happen. Though, of course we don’t know the entirety of the opening scene’s carnage… and accustomed to authors who play tricks on readers.
Goldin then alternates chapters unfolding in the elevator for 34hrs before the final scene; with the narrative of a young woman called Sara Hall.
When we meet Sara she’s arriving to interview at Stanhope and Sons. She’s got a freshly minted MBA but struggling to find a job. (I didn’t entirely work out why this prestigious firm vs flipping burgers were her only options, other than the economic downturn, which is mentioned, but whatevs…)
The interview goes badly and she’s obviously there to make up numbers, though as she happens upon a Vice President of the firm leaving the building, she’s invited back for another interview – on his team.
It’s the job of a lifetime. She’s one of a golden few accepted into the hallowed (though thoroughly modern) Ming-vase / Picasso painting-laden halls. Through Sara’s eyes we’re privy to her new life of daily gifts and fine dining during orientation and as a long-term public servant I really think our underfunded and mostly non-existent induction processes could learn a thing or two…
By the time we walked out of the training room fully ‘inducted’ we were like trained dogs. I thought of the eagerness with which we’d anticipated the gourmet lunches. We had been conditioned to do whatever the firm needed in return for a reward.
In the blind, cult-like reverence that followed the induction, each and every one of us would have taken a bullet for the firm. If truth be told, I think that most of us would have killed for Stanhope. p 66
But then the hard work starts as Sara officially joins Vincent’s team. Along with most of the characters we meet in an elevator in a deserted building…. later.
Goldin does a really good job with Sara. She remains likeable and relatable. She’s conscious of her good fortune but thriving nonetheless; and conscious of her desire to now retain a lifestyle she’s worked so hard to achieve.
That was the first time I realised why the firm gave us such generous perks and pay. It was to skew our moral compass so that we wouldn’t hesitate, wouldn’t flinch, when we had to be ruthless. p 158
We spend a little time with the four characters in the lift and some are more palatable than others. Indeed, for many we learned that they haven’t always been quite as ‘Wall Street’ as they are now…
He wondered how he’d let his optimism morph into a hard shell of cynicism….
Sam longed – with a nostalgia so sweet that it almost hurt – for the simple, modest world in which he’d been raised. At the same time, he shuddered at the very thought of ever returning to it. p 100
But it’s Sara we cling to and with whom we spend the most time. Which is why the motivation for what happens in the lift is kinda sad.
I can’t say too much more, even about the plot, cos of the whole #spoiler thing, but suffice to say, the four colleagues – almost all equally as devious and ambitious as each other – are stuck in the elevator and offered the chance to escape with their lives IF they answer the questions and play the game.
Of course, things are never as they seem….
There were a couple of teensy plot-holes (for me and my logic-loving mind) but they were easily ignored. Cleverly staged and plotted, with easy and elegant prose, I very much enjoyed this book by Goldin. Her first, The Girl in Kellers Way, was a book I read in 2017 and loved as well. Interestingly it’s a very different type of book – but… there’s a similar underlying theme around the haves and have-nots. And what people do to become part of the former.
Success is not for the squeamish. p 98
As well as the Gordon Gecko / GG’s antithesis theme, there’s also an alarming sense of finality that comes as a bit of a surprise. To everyone I suspect. But again… I can say no more cos of the whole #spoiler thing.
The Escape Room by Megan Goldin will be published in Australia by Penguin Random House in late May 2018.
* I should mention it was probably only 11pm or so but I was really tired and had to hit the road at 6am the next morning to drive to a nearby town for an 8am work meeting.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.