Friday, October 23, 2020

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

When I was offered this book to read, I thought that I was reading outside my comfort zone. I mean, I don't read horror which is the genre that I pigeonholed this one into. I thought, though, that this would make a great book to read specifically for RIPXV which is why I said yes. I had also read some good reviews when it originally came out, and the cover caught my eye from when I first saw it.

But let's examine this idea of being adventurous a bit before I talk about the story.

Do I like a good mystery? Check.

Do I like a dual time line novel? Check.

Do I like buildings that hold their secrets close and then gradually reveal them? Check

So it would appear that I was not reading that adventurously after all. Having said that, this isn't my normal historical fiction dual time line story. There were, of course, things that were outside my norm. But let's talk about the book first.

When the book opens we meet a young woman named Viv Delaney who has ended up in a small town called Fell, New York almost by accident. She ends up at The Sun Down Motel and is offered the job working the night shift. Needing somewhere to sleep and a way to earn money, Viv says yes, setting in place a series of events which ultimately leads to her disappearance.

More than thirty years later her niece Carly turns up in Fell looking for answers. Her mother, Viv's younger sister, has recently died, never having had the answer to the question of what happened to Viv all those years before.

The book alternates between 1982 and 2017 when Carly's life begins to mirror that of her aunt. She gets a job working the night shift at the motel and uses her time during the day to try and solve the mystery of what happened to Viv. This in itself echoes Viv's own life.

Fell is a strange place. Despite being only a small town, it has had more than it's fair share of murders in recent years. Working the night shift, Viv is often the only person awake, except for the ghosts that haunt the hotel. There's a young boy and an unhappy woman and she can often smell cigarette smoke when there is no one else there. And one or all of these ghosts is not happy. Viv often finds locked doors flung open, and there are times when the neon sign at the front of the motel just stops working. The thing about these ghosts is that no one in town will talk about any of the bad things that happen in town. Viv therefore starts investigating who they might be, how they died and how they are linked to the motel. Along the way we meet Alma, the only woman cop in town who has to work the nightshift and Marnie, a local photographer who sometimes works on surveillance. 

Carly sees the same ghosts. While she is really looking for more information about what happened to her aunt, she is also drawn to try and find out who they are and how they died. As she starts to put the stories together, she also meet Alma and Marnie, but they deny knowing Viv very well, and even deny knowing each other.

I have to say that the way that the two stories echo each other definitely helped build the suspense. There were multiple occasions where I found myself holding my breath as I waited to see what would happen next and how the story would be bought to an end.

I mentioned at the beginning that the structure of this book ticks my boxes. It wasn't all familiar though. In my normal reads, the buildings that are hiding secrets are generally older. The Sun Down Motel was relatively new when Viv started working there, but ended up being stuck in time, barely changing between that time and when Carly started, to the point that they had never been able to get a computer to work in the office.

Another difference is that the ghosts are generally less hostile in my normal reads, but I do think that these ghosts had good reason for their hostility! 

It was also interesting to read the dual timeline where both threads were during my life time. Every now and again there were small glimpses of early 80s pop culture which was also fun.

I had never read Simone St James before but on the basis of this book, I will definitely be looking to read more from her. So while this step wasn't as far out of my normal reading patterns as I originally thought, it was worthwhile!

Rating 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy through Netgalley.

Goodreads Summary

Something hasn't been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnĘžt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.


  1. I loved this book when I read it earlier this year.

  2. This sounds like one I might enjoy as long as it's not too creepy. I used to be able to read scary books, but not anymore!

    1. You can definitely feel the creepiness but it's not too overwhelming Les



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