Synopsis: 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. (Amazon)
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Genre: Thriller / Mystery / Horror
Rating: 4 stars
Told through dual perspectives—the lead in 2017, and her long-lost, seemingly disappeared aunt in 1982--The Sun Down Motel is an atmospheric and intriguing read from the start.
Carly, our 2017 main character, is on the trail of her aunt, Vivian, who vanished from the run-down The Sun Down motel in 1982 and was never heard from again despite searches. Searches that Carly soon realizes were rather cursory, especially as her aunt was on the trail of what Carly later realizes was a serial killer back in the day. As Carly searches for Vivian, and Vivian hunts the tracks of the murderer, the story closes in on its inevitable ending.
I've always enjoyed the touch of paranormal factors that Simone St. James adds to her books since I read my first novel by her years ago, The Haunting of Maddy Clare. Just like with The Haunting..., the ghosts and apparitions in The Sun Down Motel not only help pull the story along, but help the characters piece together the loose ends of the plot. And without needing to lean on this, the author makes the connections easy to follow, smooth to flow together. It was as unsettling as it was meant to be, without it being creepy enough that it would distract from everything else that was occurring.
The slow reveal and end result of the mystery was a very nice change of pace when we switch to Vivian's time in the story. I was pleasantly surprised to see her take the killer's fate in her hands, despite how it seems that things are going to end near the beginning of her search. She's a smart, spunky character without being loud about it—personality traits that are nicely mirrored in Carly later on in years, while Carly has her own quirks to make her her own individual. I'm only sorry that the two had so little time together once they were able to finally meet on even ground.
I wouldn't say that the ending was explosive, since it does happen in stages, rather than in one harried single moment. It does lose momentum, ever so slightly, but it was still quite satisfying. Especially as one takes into account how “alive” the motel itself turns out to be at the end, and the role that it plays.
It's an overall good novel, so easy to get hooked into. St. James' writing runs as seamlessly as it always has, and makes it that much more tempting to devour the book in one sitting if you have the chance.