The perfect cocktail: a spooky, decaying motel in the middle of nowhere. A night shift clerk. Murder. Dual-timelines. Ghosts. Welcome to the Sun Down Motel.
Plot: ★★★★ 1/2
I have been so excited to read this latest Simone St James novel, it's kind of surreal that I've finished it. Haunted hotels are one of my favorite tropes in fiction, so let's put the mild disclaimer here that I was basically guaranteed to—at minimum—enjoy this at the 3 star level for setting alone.
The Sun Down Motel is the kind of place your mother would worry about you frequenting. It's decayed, it's filled with characters of the night, and it's known to be haunted.
It's also the place where Vivian Delaney disappeared in 1982. One night, she vanished—and was presumed killed. It turns out many young women in the town of Fell, New York, met grisly ends during that time.
Is Fell just a dangerous town, or is there something else coming for these girls?
Told in a dual-timeline with Vivian Delaney in 1982 and her niece Carly in 2017, The Sun Down Motel really maintained my attention. I loved the unfolding of the plot via the two POVs, and felt the author really nailed the suspense as information was revealed in a way that provided the reader with more information than the protagonists knew, and vice versa. St. James knows how to keep you invested in the mystery, that's for sure.
If I had to pick a weak spot, I'd say the characters were the least interesting part of the entire thing. I loved the setting (obviously, see above) and I loved the murder mystery itself, but I could honestly take or leave Carly—she could have been anyone. Vivian had more originality, but not much more. The most intriguing characters were one the side—I loved Marnie, the freelance photographer who interacts with Vivian in 1982, and Nick, who interacts with Carly in 2017.
I also wish that there had been more suspense tied to the spooky elements. In other books with ghosts/etc, the atmospheric angle of the haunting is used to aid the suspense, and provides a mystery element in itself—i.e. what is making that noise? who is that? etc. In this, the ghost angle is figured out pretty early on and then just...taken in stride? I wish it had been more mysterious, and a bigger portion of the plot.
Oh, and the murderer(s)? Yes. That was GOOD. I really liked the whodunit reveals, and it definitely lived up to the concept.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.