Thursday, June 3, 2021

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James


The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
Release Date - February 18, 2020 
Publisher Website - Penguin Random House Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 327 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**borrowed from library**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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…

There is something inherently creepy about a motel (or hotel). That creep factor doubles if it happens to be located in the middle of nowhere. We've all seen Psycho. We've heard the infamous stories about the Cecil Hotel. Places like these allow for a bit of anonymity and you could be staying next door to anyone. It is no surprise that a place like this would make an effective setting for a mystery and The Sun Down Motel proves just that.

The motel of the book's title is the centerpiece of this murder mystery. It has such a presence that it becomes a character in the story. It has the middle of nowhere location, a mysterious disappearance, and its potentially haunted status all helping to create an atmosphere that is perfect for the tense plot that is being woven. The darkness of the motel extends into the surrounding town which has its share of secrets. 

The most fun and interesting element is the dual narration. We have Viv who is working at the hotel in the 1980s and Carly, her niece, who is working there in 2017.  Carly is retracing her Aunt's footsteps trying to unravel what happened the night she went missing while working the night shift at the motel. The story blends these two story arcs together in a way that compliments one another and builds off the other. I found it compelling and  that added an extra element to the twists in the story. The downside is how similar the storylines sometimes are. It adds a bit of a repetitive feel to the writing that might impact some reader's enjoyment of the book. 

Viv and Carly are both determined women who don't give up. They both investigate the mystery within the novel with a single minded focus. They were both engaging characters which made them interesting to read about. 

The first half of the book was incredibly compelling and I could not put it down. It does lose a little bit of its steam towards the latter half and some elements of the plot did not work as well as others did for me. The expanding mystery worked for me and didn't really need all the extra window dressing. The ending itself was also a bit mixed for me. There were elements that weren't as satisfying which created an uneven feeling to the story.

If you are a fan of  mystery novels this one certainly offers up plenty of twists and turns in a unique feeling story. It has a strong atmosphere and setting that makes it easy to immerse yourself in the story. Toss it in your beach bag for an enjoyable summer reading experience.

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