The Sun Down Motel | Review
Rating - ⭐⭐⭐1/2
"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…"
The Sun Down Motel is a standalone mystery thriller novel by Simone St. James.
I was a tiny bit worried going into this as I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy it despite it having good reviews. For one, this is marketed as a paranormal horror which could be a good or bad thing for me. I love paranormal stories, as long as it stays paranormal which a lot don't. For two, I wasn't a fan of her most recent book The Book of Cold Cases due to the writing and was worried it will be the same in this.
Thankfully though, this ended up being a pretty decent story. I guess it was a good thing that I randomly decided to listen to this while I replaying God of War in anticipation of the release of God of War: Ragnarok.
Let's get into the details.
Overall, I thought the writing is good, though I am comparing it to The Book of Cold Cases which I didn't like the writing for. This is a dual timeline and dual perspective book as we follow Carly in 2017 and Viv in the 1980s.
The parallel between Viv and Carly is good, and the story didn't end up overlapping too much so you end up getting the same information twice. Naturally, though, there is overlap since they are essentially investigating the same thing.
As I just mentioned, since this has a dual timeline and perspective, we follow a story split into two that converges into one. On the one side, we follow Viv who experiences strange things at her job at the Sun Down Motel and subsequently goes missing. On the other side, there is Carly, Viv's niece, who goes to the motel to investigate what happened there.
Essentially, we know that Viv goes missing, and thus how her story presumably ends, and what is left is to figure out what happened, how, and why. Surprisingly enough, the pieces start to come together rather quickly as both Viv and Carly figure out who is behind the series of killings early enough into the story. Luckily though, that didn't end up detracting from the mystery as the suspense then kicks in.
As I also said earlier on, you do end up running in circles a bit because Viv and Carly are essentially investigating the same thing, only with Viv added to the equation for Carly. This was fine though and didn't end up bothering me much. What also didn't, surprisingly, was the fact that this is a non-detective mystery.
Viv and Carly are normal citizens who take it upon themselves to solve the mystery and put themselves in the line of danger. This usually never works for me mainly because of the incompetence of the characters, but I didn't mind them at all in this.
As for the ending and how well everything wrapped up, well, it wasn't the best but wasn't the worst. The reveals that happened I was a bit iffy about but not too angry since the overalls story was fine. One thing I do wish the story dialled more into though was the paranormal aspect. They did have a role in the story and were key to solving the mystery, but I wish they were more prominent.
As I stated a bit ago, I didn't mind Viv and Carly. They were definitely impulsive in their pursuit of justice and had some lapse of judgment though. Carly up and leaves school in order to find out what happened to her aunt, and Viv puts herself directly in the line of sight of a serial killer. So, needless to say, they are both a bit reckless. I didn't dislike them though which is a huge win for me.
I also liked Heather, Carly's roommate who aids her in her investigation. She is very open about her mental health, and she doesn't hesitate to help Carly even though it would impact it.
This book pleasantly surprised me. Was it good enough to earn more than an okay rating, no, but it went above my expectations nonetheless. Her next book was a definite step down from this, but this was a decent mystery that had actual paranormal elements.