Title: The Sun Down Motel
Author: Simone St. James
Release Date: February 18th 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Paranormal
Goodreads Rating: 4.21 (of 6812 ratings)
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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…
Honestly, can Simone St. James write a book that I will not devour in one swoop? The answer, from all that I have read (and trust me, I have read them all), is no. I thought my intense binge reading days were broken as I’ve had a quite lackluster 2020 reading year so far, but this book breathed new life in me. I inhaled this book so much until I became one with it and finished it all in one night.
What I love about St. James’s work is her ability to create an atmosphere. This time around, she flips back between the time periods of 1982 and 2017. St. James manages to create both amazing moods that transports you back to these two drastically different time periods even though it was only 30 or so years apart (idk if it’s actually 30 years – math is hard). I can’t even use words to describe how haunting and spooky and chilling she manages to make it. Gosh, I could live in her atmospheres forever.
This book had a slightly different tone than her usual ones. This one was a lot darker than her usual works, and it really focused on so much of what women face. This book was a celebration of strong women, but also showed the darkness that women faced: from being discriminated in the workplace to the fear we face from predators to more. There are some dark places that this book goes, and there were some points in this that haunted me and it wasn’t just from the ghosts.
The pacing was right on with this one. This story focuses on two different timelines, and like many stories, I usually tend to lean toward one or the other. I liked both pretty equally since they were both pretty captivating, but I did favor Carly’s timeline. I leaned a little more toward Carly as a character, so I was slightly more invested. But as I said, both were still very interesting, and the switches were done right at the same time. This was so so so easy to binge, and I couldn’t stop until I finished that night.
There were a few bumps. I felt like the romance – while I totally vibed – it didn’t have enough time to really work fully. I think it either should have had more time to fully blossom and work or not be included at all, but I felt like it just dangled there to tempt me but I could never grasp it. I also had some issues with the ending. I felt like it was just a little too rushed and things were just popping out of nowhere that were like ummmmm. I felt like I needed a bit more lead up or explanation or just something.
And my last gripe was, like, everyone was a detective??? I’ve never met so many people that just willingly agree to put their life and sanity on the line to solve themselves some mysteries. Like, I get it’s a work of fiction, but no one even blinks??? This wasn’t really an issue, but I was really entertained with everyone’s willingness to join the search.
Other than that, I didn’t have any issues, and this is still up with one of my favorite Simone St. James’s books. There is so much brilliance to be had, and I’m sort of in a book hangover for sure. GHOSTIES IN THEIR MOST GOODNESS.
representation: black side character
content warnings: use of slurs (gay, lesbian, black slurs), murder, rape (not graphically described), consensual sexual content (mentioned, but not shown), violence (especially against women)
read this if you: if you love a good historical thriller with a very good dash of ghosts and romance
What do you think? Let’s discuss in the comments below!