The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James is out this week from Penguin Random House and it’s a must read for fans of mysteries with a supernatural edge.
Set in both 1982 and 2017, the story revolves around a woman named Vivian Delaney who disappeared without a trace while working the night shift at the haunted Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York in November of 1982. It’s a strange town that has seen more than its fair share of murdered women, and the inquisitive Viv had been digging into the cases before her disappearance much to the chagrin of law enforcement.
Thirty-five years later her niece, Carly Kirk–born long after her aunt’s disappearance–has traveled to Fell to once and for all find out what happened to her aunt.
She rents Viv’s old apartment, and before long, has taken a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel. She, too, discovers quickly that the motel is not only strange but it is also filled with terrifying spirits who won’t be silenced.
St. James weaves Viv and Carly’s parallel stories together perfectly, creating ties from the past to the present that are not only plausible but undeniably compelling. Moreover, the transition from 1982 to 2017 and back again is never jarring.
The author draws her readers carefully, step by step, into her world–coaxing us to trust her–only to reveal at the last possible moment that it has been a trap all along.
What I like most about The Sun Down Motel, however, is St. James’s attention to character. Every character in the novel, including the ghosts, have a fully realized story. They are real. They are flawed, and the absence of a single one could easily have toppled the house that she was building here.
That same attention to detail is applied to the motel itself.
Motels have always seemed a uniquely American establishment. Built along highways as an oasis for cross country travelers, motel is actually a portmanteau of “motor hotel” as they generally consist of a single building made up of rooms whose doors open out into a parking lot.
While their more “upscale” hotel cousins have often been given the ghost story treatment in horror settings, motels have been relegated almost entirely to slashers and physical violence.
St. James cleverly says, “Well, if the second happened, then surely the first is possible” and in doing so creates a haunting more violent than The Shining and at times, more chilling than Hill House.
Taken together, this creates a story that blends and blurs genre lines and gives readers a story that will creep under your skin and plague your mind long after the final page is turned.
Do you like suspense? How about gore? Are you a fan of ghosts and the supernatural? Are you the reader whose brain is working overtime to solve the mystery before the characters do?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James is a must-read novel for you. Fair warning, be prepared. Once you take her hand, she will not let it go until the very end.
The Sun Down Motel is available in multiple formats on February 18, 2020. Pick up a copy and prepare for a time-jumping, bone-chilling read you won’t soon forget.
iHorror also recommends: TRUE CRIME by Samantha Kolesnik