Freeform. (Murder Trending: Bk. 3). Sept. 2020. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781368026260.
Gr 9 Up–Twenty years before Alcatraz 2.0 and “Who Wants To Be a Paniac?,” eight seemingly unrelated contestants unwittingly entered the first murder games at Escape-Capades, Ltd. For white 17-year-old Persey, the day was meant to be an opportunity to earn enough money to finally be free. But when the puzzles turn deadly, solving them is suddenly about getting out of the escape room alive. In this prequel to McNeil’s “#MurderTrending” series, the narrator skips between the present deadly situation and her not-so-distant past, giving the reader glimpses into her reasons for participating in the escape room competition. However, it’s not until the very end of the story that readers will learn Persey’s true motivation—a plot twist that may leave some readers disillusioned. As with the rest of the series, the cast of characters are a diverse lot racially, but they all feel more like caricatures designed to check various boxes than fully developed individuals.
VERDICT Fans already invested in the series are sure to enjoy this prequel companion, though new readers may come away more confused than anything. A strictly additional purchase.

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