Book Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

Name: The Sun Down Motel
Simone St. James
Number of Pages:
336 (ebook)
February 18th 2020 by Berkley
Genre:  Mystery, Thriller, Horror


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 isnʼt 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.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Imagine a motel, in an isolated location, surrounded by woods, in a town with something of a history regarding unsolved crimes and disappearances. Imagine being the solitary employee working the night shift in such a place, with few if any residents, then imagine doors opening of their own accord in rooms known to be unoccupied, sudden noises, strange smells, the lights go out, and then…

That’s the situation at the incredibly creepy Sun Down Motel, where in 1982 Viv Delaney finds herself accepting the job as night clerk having left home with ideas to go to New York. She witnesses much at the motel, the cheating couples, the unique characters with their own schemes, but she also sees what others don’t, previous occupants of the motel who apparently never left. Viv starts to wonder who these people might be, and during her stay in Fell she starts to put together a tragic and possibly dangerous picture of accidents and incidents which may go some way to explain these ghostly appearances at the motel.
And then Viv disappears…

35 years later Carly, Viv’s niece, cannot accept that no one ever found out what happened to her aunt and follows the trail straight to the Sun Down, a coincidence seeing her assume the role of night clerk, the way her aunt did all those years ago. And the strange events start to repeat all over again.

The story combines an old murder mystery with some wonderfully creepy scenes at the motel. The dead of night, the isolation, the threat from something apparently real but not real, I definitely had a moment or two when I was glad I’m come across certain scenes during daylight hours, or I may have had to put the story aside for a while. And that’s just the kind of read I was seeking for October.

Away from the creepy atmosphere of the motel a cold-case murder mystery unfolds as both Carly and Viv uncover certain facts and one narrative feeds seamlessly into the other as both women tread the apparent same path 35 years apart. The mixture of the cold-case investigations into a number of unsolved crimes and the combination of thriller and ghostly mystery appealed to me.

The writing is really good. It’s easy to imagine the motel with its vivid blue and yellow sign, blighted by tragic events almost from its opening and falling into an almost abandoned, forgotten and unloved 1980s time warp in the modern narrative. So easy to picture the ghosts that haunt the place, the smell of cigarette smoke that comes out of the blue when no one is around, the clink as the doors open of their own accord, the darkness as the lights go out…. Okay, I’ll stop now, but you might say I enjoyed the writing.

The two narratives introduce Viv and Carly. Carly’s part is told in first person as we go back to the motel with her, whereas Viv’s is third person. I liked both of these characters, their bravery in facing that motel, going back night after night despite the things they had seen and could not explain, and the details they uncovered about events linked to the motel.
Viv’s determination to see her theories through despite great risks to her own safety made her chapters tense reading at times.
Carly is interesting, and I liked her friendship with Heather, a young woman who becomes her roommate and friend, who knows all the local history of Fell, the stories, the disappearances, the ones that were solved.
I liked the cast of characters throughout, from the two main characters to the array of people who pass through the motel, the travelling salesman who keeps giving a false name, Helen and Robert, the cheating couple, and the wonderful Marnie, the woman on their trail, and the only female officer in Fell, Alma Trent.

The Sun Down Motel is a great mix of mystery and ghost story, and perfect for those autumn nights when the darkness is drawing in and you’re looking for a story to get lost in.


19 thoughts on “Book Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

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