Audiobook review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
I fell in love with Simone St. James’ way of telling a thriller with paranormal undercurrents when I listened to The Book of Cold Cases and went on to make my way through her backlist so that I arrived at The Sun Down Motel just in time for spooky season reading.
The promise of a chilling atmosphere and mystery were not disappointing. Split between two timelines of 1982 and 2017, The Sun Down Motel tells the story of not-quite runaway, Viv, and her niece, Carly, who came looking years after Viv’s disappearance.
I chose the audio version and enjoyed that two gifted narrators told the two timelines making the voice of aunt and niece distinct even after creepy parallels started to happen as Carly chose to walk in her aunt’s shadowy footsteps to find out what happened to her.
Simone St. James has a true gift when it comes to creating an atmospheric setting out of a quiet ordinary place- small town Fell, New York, and a rundown motor lodge on the edge of town, in this instance.
Viv is an introverted 80’s era older teen who had the gumption to strike out on her own after clashing with her mom. In fact, it is obvious that her mom’s disappointment in her after her parent’s break up weighs on her so that she can’t stay and works from afar to prove herself, it seems. Viv’s arrival in Fell is random and her choice of night clerk job at the motel is also random. But what comes next is not. Viv is terrified by an inexplicable series of happenings, but because of these happenings, she is aware that the motel is more strongly tied to a series of local deaths than even the police are aware. Viv’s determination to get answers and eventually justice for the murder victims and figure out the mystery of the motel are at the heart of the book.
Years later, Carly is at loose ends and fixates on her Aunt Viv’s disappearance to take her mind off her grief. The two plots worked together well and I wasn’t distracted jumping from Viv to Carly’s storyline because it was engaging seeing how much of Carly’s later actions and demeanor parallel Viv’s in a way that connected with the suspense. I worked out much of what was going on and would happen, but happily still got some surprises.
The build and pace are slow at first and then it gather’s speed to a fever pitch in the last quarter before a satisfying denouement to tie off loose ends nicely. And, as I have been enjoying the author’s backlist, I’d like to point out that none of these standalone thrillers have followed a formula so each presents a fresh tale to draw me in and keep me glancing over my shoulder at the spooky shadows until I finish, satisfied and waiting for the next one.
About the Book:
Something hasn’t been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.
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.
Author: Simone St. James
Narrators: Brittany Pressley, Kirsten Potter
Genre: Paranormal Thriller
Audiobook Release Date: February 18, 2020
Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio
Length: 11 hours
Audio Speed: 1.2x
Audible/Amazon (affilate link)