[I received a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]
A quick read, in that it’s not complicated and you don’t need a lot of focus. I didn’t find the story compelling, and the writing style was quite dry, with much more telling than showing.
The initial idea, that of four people trapped in a lift masquerading as an escape room, and forced to be together when in fact they’d probably much prefer to kill each other, was a good one. However, it was also difficult to execute—there isn’t much room in a lift, which limits action possibilities—and after the first couple of “lift chapters”, the thrill here dwindled down to our four bankers not doing much with the few clues they were given. I think there was an element of “things didn’t turn out exactly as the mastermind behind it had envisioned they would”, but it fell flat for me. It was also pretty obvious from the beginning who said mastermind was, and with this removed, the remaining “how” and “why” weren’t able to fully carry the story afterwards.
This said, I could’ve worked with the above under certain conditions: the twin narrative of Sara Hall and what happened within Stanhope a few years prior to the escape room scenes had interesting ideas, exploring the ruthless world of investment banking, colleagues smiling to each other but trying to undermine each other from behind, backstabbing, the women vs. the “old boys’ network”, and so on. I could’ve worked with this… if the characters had been compelling, only they weren’t. Almost all of them (except the one that dies mid-story) weren’t likeable people—and when I say likeable, I don’t mean that they necessarily have to be kind, positive, etc., but that they have to make me feel for them, and keep interested, in spite of their flaws. Here, though, they were just unlikeable, without many redeeming qualities; their more human aspects (struggling with their relationships, divorce, and so on) mostly make them look like what mattered to them wasn’t so much the relationship, but the standing that came with it; not so much saving one’s marriage, but avoiding losing alimony money; and so on. In other words, whether they got out of the lift or not, I didn’t care.
As for the plot behind the whole escape room, it felt more contrived, and a little ridiculous, than thrilling, and the few twists and turns didn’t awe me either.
(On the plus side, I did like the characters who died. Unfortunately. I mean, for them, because, well, they’re dead.)