The best books with impossible escapes

Bryan Johnston Author Of Death Warrant
By Bryan Johnston

Who am I?

I worked in television for 25 years so when I wrote my novel, Death Warrant, about a reality TV show that kills people, I had a wealth of experience to draw from (not the killing part, but the TV part). And one of my experiences in TV was promoting reality TV programs on the stations I worked for. What did I come away with from that? That I really hate reality TV. Why? Because there is virtually nothing real about it. The shows are produced to within an inch of their lives. So, anything I could do that takes a swipe at reality TV, that satirizes it a bit, I was all in.

I wrote...

Death Warrant

By Bryan Johnston,

Book cover of Death Warrant

What is my book about?

Frankie Percival is cashing in her chips. To save her brother from financial ruin, Frankie, a stage performer who never made it big, agrees to be assassinated on the most popular television show on the planet: Death Warrant. But once she signs her life away, her memory is wiped clean of the agreement, leaving her with no idea she will soon be killed in spectacular fashion for global entertainment. After years of working in low-rent theaters, Frankie prepares for the biggest performance of her life that could catapult her to the top, if only she lives that long.

The books I picked & why

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A Gentleman in Moscow

By Amor Towles,

Book cover of A Gentleman in Moscow

Why this book?

This is easily the most entertaining and satisfying read I have ever had in my life. The story centers around the protagonist, Count Rostov, who is under house arrest in a luxury hotel in Moscow, Russia…for the rest of his life! He can never leave. But the Count is the most likable figure imaginable. Virtually everything from his previous life has been taken away, and yet he makes the best of his new normal. You’re constantly rooting for him. This book inspired me to make the hero of my own book as likable as possible. Everyone likes a hero you aspire to.

The Count of Monte Cristo

By Alexandre Dumas, Robin Buss (translator),

Book cover of The Count of Monte Cristo

Why this book?

The Count of Monte Cristo is the ultimate revenge book. Our hero, Edmond Dantes, is wrongfully thrown in prison for the rest of his life, and (spoiler alert) he beats the odds, and manages to escape. He then makes a completely new life for himself and exacts the most delicious revenge imaginable. I love a story where tremendous forces are working against the protagonist, and yet they continue to fight. You will be cheering for Edmond!

Carter Beats the Devil

By Glen Gold,

Book cover of Carter Beats the Devil

Why this book?

Carter Beats the Devil is a historical mystery thriller based on a real character, a magician named Carter who is under suspicion of killing the president of the United States. There are plenty of powerful figures after him, and yet, he must dig deep into his own bag of tricks to outwit and escape them. Carter is a supremely enjoyable character who also happens to have a really cool job! I have always been fascinated by magic and this book takes you behind the curtain to see all that goes into the stagecraft.


By Henri Charriere,

Book cover of Papillon

Why this book?

This is such a compelling book because you are rooting for the protagonist so much. His situation is so tragic and unfair that you’re in a constant state of anticipation. Will he succeed? Will things get better? He’s facing tremendous odds, and his chances of success are miniscule and everyone loves a good underdog story.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

By Maria Semple,

Book cover of Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Why this book?

What I found fascinating about this book is that the escape this privileged woman (Bernadette) is trying to make is from her own life. Twice! She successfully escapes from her previous life as an architect to become a stay-at-home mom but discovers over time that what she escaped from was what she truly needed in her life. She lost her creative drive. And so, she tries to escape her new life as well. The story then becomes a search for Bernadette by her daughter and husband. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? makes it abundantly clear that the grass isn’t always greener, and that we should appreciate the good things we have.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in revenge, prisoners, and magicians?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about revenge, prisoners, and magicians.

Revenge Explore 56 books about revenge
Prisoners Explore 55 books about prisoners
Magicians Explore 23 books about magicians

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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