Book Buzz: Reprieve by James Han Mattson

“An eventual American classic that is unrelenting in its beauty and

incisive cultural critique.” — Kiese Laymon



On April 27, 1997, four contestants make it to the final cell of the Quigley House, a full-contact haunted escape room in Lincoln, Nebraska, made famous for its monstrosities, booby-traps, and ghoulishly costumed actors. If the group can endure these horrors without shouting the safe word, “reprieve,” they’ll win a substantial cash prize—a startling feat accomplished only by one other group in the house’s long history. But before they can complete the challenge, a man breaks into the cell and kills one of the contestants.


Those who were present on that fateful night lend their points of view: Kendra Brown, a teenager who’s been uprooted from her childhood home after the sudden loss of her father; Leonard Grandton, a desperate and impressionable hotel manager caught in a series of toxic entanglements; and Jaidee Charoensuk, a gay international student who came to the United States in a besotted search for his former English teacher. As each character’s journey unfurls and overlaps, deceit and misunderstandings fueled by obsession and prejudice are revealed, forcing all to reckon with the ways in which their beliefs and actions contributed to a horrifying catastrophe.


An astonishingly soulful exploration of complicity and masquerade, Reprieve combines the psychological tension of classic horror with searing social criticism to present an unsettling portrait of this tangled American life.

“Surprising and spellbinding, Mattson’s latest offering is a page-turner that keeps you guessing right until the explosive end. Smart and entertaining, Reprieve is the rare novel that’s both thrilling and thought-provoking. A must-read!”
— T. Geronimo Johnson, bestselling author of Welcome to Braggsville

Reprieve by James Han Mattson

416 Pages

ISBN 9780063079915


James Han Mattson is the acclaimed author of The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is the recipient of awards from the Copernicus Society of America and Human-ities North Dakota. He was a featured storyteller on The Moth and has taught writing at the University of Iowa, the University of Cape Town, the George Washington University, the University of Maryland, Murray State University, and the University of California–Berkeley. He is currently the fiction editor of Hyphen magazine. He was born in Seoul, Korea, and raised in North Dakota.