The Sundown Motel by Simone St. James

It has been a while since I truly could not wait to get my hands on a book. I think back to the days of waiting for the next Harry Potter novel to publish, grabbing up a copy at midnight, and breathlessly reading into the early morning. That's the level of anticipation with which I approached Simone St. James' latest novel The Sun Down Motel. You see, The Broken Girls, her previous release, was THE book of 2018 for me. Something about combining a cold case mystery with a dash of supernatural horror entranced me to no end. Even as I write this review, I can't escape the spell that novel cast upon me. Seriously, read The Broken Girls! Anyway, I've been anxiously awaiting the release of this novel pretty much since finishing her last. I was fortunate enough to be provided with an advanced copy of the novel from the publisher (I sought out this review copy, something I rarely do!) and am pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book too.

The small town of Fell, NY is beyond the place that would be considered "off the beaten path". It is the kind of place that only the locals seem to truly be aware of. Aside from the local college, there isn't really anything else to draw someone to stay. As such, the local Sun Down Motel has seen better days. The year is 1982, and the motel is only drawing drifters and locals who are up to no good. Despite the ramshackle appearance and questionable occupants, Viv Delaney sees the motel as the ideal stepping stone to her future aspirations. If she can just hold down a job as a night clerk for a few months, she'll have enough saved to make the big move to NYC.

In the present day, the old motel is still standing and operating, a little more run-down than before, but a fixture of the town nonetheless. Looking for a reason to escape her life, especially after her mother succumbed to cancer, Carly decides to follow in the footsteps of her aunt Vivian and move out to Fell. Decades ago, Viv disappeared without a trace. The mystery of her vanishing has haunted Carly's family ever since. Determined to retrace Viv's steps, Carly takes on the same job as a night clerk and does some amateur detective work of her own.

Like The Broken Girls, The Sun Down Motel finds great success in immersing the reader in its sense of place. The titular motel is presented in such detail that I could feel myself getting lost in its decaying surroundings. St. James writes alternating chapters of past and present day, the two taking on a mirror-like quality as Carly retraces the journey of Viv all those years ago. At times, I did find myself jumping back to the beginning of the chapters to remind myself which time period/perspective I was in. The two girls' stories are so similar that it did get a bit tedious to keep track of who I was reading about. Still, I eagerly raced through each page to see what would happen next. Ultimately, The Sun Down Motel is a novel about haunting. The place is haunted by the ghosts of the town's horrific past, and Carly is haunted by the questions surrounding her aunt's disappearance. The two threads come together in a beautiful, albeit a bit rushed, conclusion that left me stunned at the sheer magnitude of emotions I was feeling. Simone St. James has a way of leaving me haunted by what I experienced at the end of her works to the point that I'll find myself reflecting on them for days and weeks after finishing. Count this one as another win from an author who is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

For more information visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads.
(2020, 7)

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29 Responses to “The Sundown Motel by Simone St. James”

  1. I really enjoyed this book as well. I liked the atmosphere of the story and appreciated the way that the two timelines came together in the end. I am glad that this book lived up to your expectations. Great review!

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    1. The atmosphere is everything! St. James really excels at placing the reader directly into her setting.

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  2. I love Simone St. James and am really excited to read this one. If only my library would reopen so I could get my copy that I put on hold weeks ago! Sigh. Maybe someday soon?? ;D

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    1. I didn't even thing of that! Maybe see if you can borrow an ebook version?

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  3. This sounds like a great, atmospheric mystery. I want to know what happened to Viv! I'm off to see if I can get an audio copy from my library. Fab review!

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    1. If you can't get your hands on this one (it is a pretty recent release) do try for The Broken Girls. Both are fantastic reads!

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  4. Okay, both just went on the wish list. Convincing review, Ethan! I can tell the book grabbed you.

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  5. I rarely reach for mystery/thrillers but even so, this one has been on my radar for a while. I love the way it sounds so atmospheric. And I love a dual timeline that is done well. Glad this was such a hit for you, Ethan!

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    1. This one might be worth a venture into the genre.

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  6. Yay, I'm so glad that you loved this one since you really adored her first novel. I've been curious about The Broken Girls, and now I want to read this one too. I have to get on that! lol

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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  7. I have been intrigued by the cover of this book since it released. I am eagerly awaiting my audiobook hold from the library. Thanks for the great review Ethan.

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    1. I think you're really going to enjoy this one!

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  8. I have been seeing a lot of great reviews for this book. It sounds like the author did an incredible job creating an atmosphere, which bleed out of the pages, and the fact that the ending evoked such a strong emotional response from you is a strong indicator of hit for me.

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    1. I love that description! The atmosphere truly does "bleed out of the pages"!

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  9. Oh yes I saw this book a lot around and all the reviews were great so I confess that I'm curious!

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    1. Don't be afraid to follow your curiosity on this one!

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  10. I am so jealous! I put in a hold request for this book at the library and was 38 on 15 copies. Then the libraries closed a few days later. I switched to the ebook copy and I am 20th on 2 copies, but I will still get it faster this way, hopefully!

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    1. It is worth the wait! Good luck on your hold spot!

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    2. Still #20 on 2...hopefully people remember they can 'return' ebooks and the 'no returns' policy is only on PHYSICAL books.

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    3. It is a fast read, so here's hoping they return quickly!

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    4. I've moved to #19! I don't know if I am excited that I moved up, or sad that it took two days for that to happen. I keep having to remind myself that not everyone is a speed-reader.

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    5. They have plenty of time to read now! Is is bad that I'm anxious about your wait? lol

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    6. Lol, no it is not bad at all because I am anxious too! I am now at #17. Seriously people, come on!

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  11. I like how you described the author nails the sense of place. It's ultimately that --- the rundown motel ont he cover that made me stop and take another look at this, so I can see i've got some good stuff to look forward to in it!

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    1. Doesn't it just grab you and draw you in?!

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  12. Yes... I have been so impressed with this author. I devoured this one and like you still think about it.

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    1. I think you turned me on to The Broken Girls in the first place! I can't wait to read whatever she comes up with next.

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