Skip to content

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James #BookReview

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…

Title: The Sun Down Motel | Author: Simone St. James |  | Publisher: Berkley | Pub. Date: 18th February 2020 | Pages: 327 | ISBN: 9780440000174 | Genre: Horror/Thriller| Language: English | Starred ReviewSource: Self-purchased

Page break indicator for Sci-Fi & Scary

The Sun Down Motel Review

The Sun Down Motel was EVERYWHERE on Instagram a few months back when it first released. For weeks, I couldn’t scroll my feed without seeing at least one or two rave review for it. Then fellow Kali Krew member Shawn decided to grab a copy. And, since I’m susceptible to peer pressure, I caved and bought it for myself so we could buddy read it. For once, this is a hyped book that deserves its hype!

I’ve been searching for YEARS for a book that will scratch the same itch as Night Film by Marisha Pessl, and The Sun Down Motel is about as close as I’ve gotten in a very long time. It’s not quite as subtle as Night Film, but it has the same sort of noire, movie-within-pages kind of feeling that I really adored. The story here follows dual timelines: one set in 1982, following Viv in the months and days before she goes missing, and one set in 2017 which follows 20-year-old Carly, a true crime buff trying to solve her aunt Viv’s disappearance in the wake of her mother’s death. As the story unfolds, these two timelines begin to blend together, as Carly unwittingly follows the path her aunt took 35 years earlier. And, of course – there are ghosts.

The setting of this book is absolutely perfect – the town of Fell, located in upstate New York, isn’t the kind of place anyone comes to on purpose. Their murder rates are sky high, the economy is non-existent, and its residents are fiercely protective of their town. It’s the perfect location for this gritty, smart mystery. The Sun Down Motel itself is equally as creepy. Dilapidated, plagued by deaths and rarely seeing more than a guest or two each night, both Viv and Carly work the overnight shift in their respective timelines. This setting goes a long way to helping with the supernatural element of this story; the place is so creepy and outdated that of course it has ghosts. There’s none of this hemming and hawing, trying to rationalize what they’ve seen nonsense. In both timelines, our characters see ghosts and, after the initial shock, buy into them as an important piece of the puzzle needed to solve this mystery. It felt like a realistic reaction (as realistic as you get with ghosts involved) and I appreciated the author not wasting 20 pages trying to prove to the reader that yes, these really are ghosts and our characters are finally coming around on them.

I loved the way these two timelines meshed together. I’m a sucker for dual narratives, and this one is so incredibly well executed. I sometimes found myself getting a bit lost in which details belonged to which timeline, but it felt deliberate, and I enjoyed seeing all these parallels between both Viv and Carly’s experiences. Watching Carly connect the same dots as Viv did, 35 years later, was so satisfying and tense.

My only complaint with this one is that the ending wrapped up FAST. All the plotlines wrap up in about 20 pages, and very neatly. It was nice seeing some resolution, but I wish that resolution would have happened more slowly and subtly rather than all being crammed into a couple of chapters. There was one moment towards the very end that both Shawn and I agreed was super out of place and out of character (I’m positive anyone who’s read this one will know exactly which moment, even though it’s essentially a throwaway comment), and the epilogue as a whole felt rushed and incomplete to me.

Barring my relatively minor issues with the ending, The Sun Down Motel is a nearly perfectly executed supernatural thriller. I had a hard time tearing myself away from it, and I loved that apart from clocking a couple of the reveals well ahead, this book’s twists came in very unexpected ways. St. James has a definite knack for fleshing out her characters, and I’ll absolutely be adding more of her works to my TBR.

You can find this book at many retailers via clicking on the appropriate link on Goodreads (buying direct from retailers is a good way to support indie authors); however, in the spirit of supporting literacy programs, we would like to point out that you may be able to purchase this book through BetterWorldBooks.

Published inHorror Book ReviewsStarred ReviewsThriller Book ReviewsUncategorized

One Comment

  1. Great review! This sounds awesome. I’d been on the fence about picking it up because I hear “supernatural thriller” and have learned to expect characters constantly doing everything in their power to debunk the supernatural aspects (which is petty, but gets old after a while IMO), so the fact that you mentioned them pretty much embracing the ghosts being a part of things? I’m sold haha.

Comments are closed.

©Sci-Fi & Scary 2019
%d bloggers like this: