The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.
Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…
The night it all ended, Vivian was alone… She felt like crying. She felt like screaming. She felt sick.
“I don’t want to go in there. But I will. Because I always do.”
Obviously flashy psychological thrillers are still trendy, but have you ever picked up a mystery that is simply well-written, to the point where you can just bask in that book’s quiet glory and subtle power? That’s precisely how I felt regarding The Sun Down Motel. It’s receiving copious amounts of hype, and rightly so, due to it’s gorgeous cover art being splashed across social media, it’s feature as a January 2020 pick for Book of the Month, and the many lists that it has been featured on prior to publication. Did I mention it’s a BOTM pick for January? The tricky part is convincing those readers who typically steer clear of any mention of the supernatural to pick up this book, and I truly believe some of you will love it regardless of this inclusion, because the paranormal aspect plays a rather small role in the overarching story.
In my humble opinion, the feature that makes The Sun Down Motel a stand out novel is the incredibly eerie atmosphere. The upstate New York setting was a character of its own, and the ability to fully immerse myself in this oppressive motel that was off the beaten path is what kept my mind constantly circling around the story, even when I wasn’t reading it. The intentionally claustrophobic writing was key to keeping both the past and the present storylines married to one another, and I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if it wasn’t one of the most brilliant tactics I’ve seen recently. While this could be considered a slow burning mystery, due to the heavy emphasis on the amateur detective work playing a large part of the narrative, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out what happened next.
There were two reasons why this book wasn’t a 5 star read for me: the repetitive nature of the past and present chapters, and the underwhelming, rushed climax of the book. While I wholly appreciate and understand the need for establishing plot progression in both tenses, many passages read almost word for word as the same conversations, which slowed the pacing down. I feel like maybe some fade to black moments, or implied info dumps off page would have kept the accuracy in tact while saving the reader from experiencing the same dialogue twice, and perhaps exchanging information reveals in an alternating style between tenses would have been helpful. Once the ending came, the last 50 pages felt so rushed as such a slow and steady build up, and while I was pleased with the way all the stories tied up, I could have used a bit more extension in that portion. Overall, a fabulous read and one that makes me look forward to future books from the author.
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Simone St. James is the award-winning author of The Broken Girls and The Haunting of Maddy Clare, which won two RITA awards from Romance Writers of America and an Arthur Ellis Award from Crime Writers of Canada. She wrote her first ghost story, about a haunted library, when she was in high school, and spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to write full-time. She lives outside Toronto, Canada with her husband and a spoiled cat.