Thursday, 14 November 2019

Book Review: THE SUNDOWN MOTEL by Simone St. James

Author: Simone St. James
Publisher: Berkley
Read: October 2019
Expected publication: 18 Feb 2020
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Book Description:

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…

My musings:

Are you a fan of a creepy atmospheric setting? Some armchair time travel back to the eighties? A dual timeline that is connected by a past unsolved mystery? Tick, tick, tick – you are indeed in luck! My only regret with this book is that it is not released until March next year, and I can’t recommend it as the perfect Halloween read!

The Sun Down Motel ticked all the boxes in terms of atmospheric setting for me. A creepy run-down motel in the middle of rural America, which has some unwanted ghostly guests residing there? Yes, please! I couldn’t get enough of this place. Furthermore (yes, I am one of those annoying reviewers that uses words like furthermore – if you have any better alternatives, I am open to suggestions). Furthermore, I read this book whilst on night shift, and was instantly grateful for my own relatively benign workplace setting (the odd aggressive drunk notwithstanding). Twenty-something Viv Delaney, a refugee from her boring family life, ends up working as a night clerk in this rather unorthodox motel. It not only features the angry ghost of a woman whose body was found there when the building’s foundations were being laid, but is also a temporary home to drunks, prostitutes and drug dealers in need of a room. Strangely, Viv takes all this in her stride, more worried about the recent spate of murders of young women around town than any paranormal activity the motel can throw at her.

Fast forward 30 or so years ago, and Carly arrives in town, looking for her auntie Viv, who went missing from the motel during one of her night shifts, never to be seen again, dead or alive. If Viv was not perturbed by the motel’s colourful residents, neither is her niece, as she sets out to solve the mystery of her aunt’s disappearance.

To someone who gets freaked out by the tapping of a branch against the side of the house during a windy night, the thought of staying in the same place as a bunch of unhappy ghosts had me absolutely gobsmacked. Would you stay when the scent of smoke appears out of nowhere in the middle of the night? When doors open and close on their own accord, lights go on and off and the spectre of a small boy sits mournfully at the edge of a swimming pool? Heck no! The author gives us such vivid descriptions of these events that I had goosebumps rise on my arms reading it as the story played out – movie like – in my mind.

Whilst the mystery itself was pretty straightforward and held few surprises (my sleuthing skills are obviously not all that bad), the setting more than made up for it here. I can forgive anything for the sake of an eerie atmospheric setting, which this book delivers in spades. 


All in all, THE SUN DOWN MOTEL is a deliciously creepy read that would indeed make the perfect autumn or winter read – with a February publication date, it will deliver some great spooks for the bleakest month of the year. After having loved THE BROKEN GIRLS last year, St. James is now firmly on my radar for a great ghost story, and I am excited to start reading my way through her backlist – which is the perfect thing to do whilst you wait for this one to come out. So, if you are on the market for a great ghost story with an irresistibly creepy setting, you cannot go past THE SUN DOWN MOTEL.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley Publishing for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

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