In the Deathroom is a chilling tale of torture, desperation, and a patriotic sense that infects people from all countries. It is also a tale of determination and the will to live. No one wants to die and the main characters of Stephen King novels portray this brilliantly.
Mr. Fletcher is an American reporter for the New York Times. While working on political stories in South America, he is grabbed outside his favorite cafe and taken to the local Ministry of Information. He is beaten and left without care, before being brought to the basement, to a place he immediately identifies as the Deathroom. The stains on the walls and the tray of covered equipment are clues but it is mostly in the eyes of the three interrogators and the single, armed guard.
The conversation begins gently enough physically, but emotionally he is hurt when a good friend of his is confirmed dead, at this tribunal’s hands. Fletcher’s friend had inside information about a revolution that is about to remove these people from power and they warn him not to lie if he wants to be returned to his own country. He lies and then finds out they already knew the answers to the questions and were testing his honesty. As his punishment, he is tortured with electric shocks.
During the entire interrogation, there is a pack of cigarettes on the desk nearby, a smoke encouraged by his captors in an effort to get him to cooperate. While being shocked, Fletcher is able to think of a possible plan to save himself from dying in the deathroom. Acting stunned from the pain, he asks for his last cigarette and when he gets it, plunges the hotly burning end into the armed guard’s eye and steals his gun.
The rest of In the Deathroom is Fletcher handing out justice and escaping the basement interrogation room but not before giving the mad doctor a taste of his own torture. He slips out, confident the revolution will happen now and the story ends with him standing on a New York City corner, buying a pack of smokes from the local vendor. It is something he promised himself he’d do if he survived being in the deathroom.
Despite all the flowery phrases and language barriers, this is a chilling story of how foreigners are often treated by other governments. How many lives have we truly lost to the same thing? Far too many. A haunting tale by a master storyteller. Recommended for mature readers only. Three stars.