Seventeen-year-old Anouk accepts an invitation to assist with an academic exploration of a 200-year old underground palace but instead finds herself trapped in an extensive and elaborate set of deadly underground rooms.
Anouk’s contemporary story intertwines with frequent flashbacks to the aristocratic family that built the underground palace at the time of the French Revolution. In that timeline, Aurélie and her sisters reluctantly descend to the recently completed palace when a mob of revolutionaries attacks their home in 1789. Now, Anouk and four other teens realize early that they’ve been recruited to a fraudulent project and that their captors intend to kill them. They race through the palace, each room adorned in almost carnival-like pre-Revolutionary décor and most equipped with devious devices meant to murder them. One room shoots razors, another metal globes, and another contains blue containers that spew deadly gas. But why were they targeted for this particularly baroque murder? Bachmann keeps the pages turning with this thriller that, for most of the book, appears to have no explanation. Although he develops Anouk quite well as a lonely character who has been estranged from her wealthy family, her friends remain one-dimensional. The peculiar circumstances add to the strange atmosphere and also to the suspense, lending the book an appealing, unworldly quality. When the explanation finally arrives, it fits quite well with the odd atmosphere.
Bizarre and hugely suspenseful. (Horror. 12-18)