The Sun Down Motel, by Simone St. James

In the late 70s and early 80s, there were a string of murdered/missing girls from a small town in New York called Fell. In late 1982, Viv is working the night shift at the Sun Down Motel, putting together details of the crimes that the police don’t see (or don’t want to see). Then she becomes the latest disappearance. Fast forward to 2017, and Viv’s niece Carly comes to Fell on a quest to figure out what happened to her estranged aunt. She takes the position of night shift clerk at the Sun Down Motel, following in her aunt’s footsteps and finding herself in a den of age-old ghost stories and modern-day revenge.

Hey!!!!! I read a book!!!!! A book I wanted to read, a book I enjoyed all the way through, a book I get to review and say good things about! It’s like a miracle!

Seriously, though. I’ve struggled for almost three months to find a book that caught my attention and that I really wanted to read. I knew that I was craving ghost stories, between my binge-listening of the Real Life Ghost Stories Podcast and rewatching old episodes of Unsolved Mysteries and such. But for me, it’s so difficult to find spooky ghost stories in books. I can find paranormal/supernatural books with witches and vampires and werewolves, or literary fiction with ghosts-as-metaphors, or horror novels that don’t appeal to me (not a fan of gore!). I just want straight up scary ghost stories that creep me out and aren’t normal in the world of the novel and aren’t explained away. And if it was paired with a mystery at the same time? Even better! (I’m also just dying to get the newest Ruth Galloway mystery, but still have two months or more to wait for its release, hence my craving for non-thriller mysteries.)

Okay. So now that I’ve babbled all about what I’ve been craving for all these months, unable to find what I was looking for in book, let me tell y’all just how much this book ticked all the boxes and delighted me from the very first page. The Sun Down Motel has it all: ghost phenomena that most folks in the book would never believe and can’t be explained away; a double mystery with alternating stories from Viv and Carly’s points of view; and a perfect setting in both the motel and the general layout of run-down small-town Fell. The writing was atmospheric and wonderful, and the mystery unfolded slowly over time. I loved it!

I won’t say that the book was perfect. There were a few side characters that didn’t seem to get as much fleshing out as they needed, and some motivations that didn’t feel quite as explored as they could have been. But you know what? This was exactly what I needed and I’d happily read ten more books in this same vein. So if anyone has any suggestions of more atmospheric ghost story mysteries like the Sun Down Motel, please send them my way!! (Or frankly, any thickly-written ghost stories or non-cozy mysteries will do!)

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
This entry was posted in 2020, Adult, Prose and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Sun Down Motel, by Simone St. James

  1. RR Gilmore says:

    It’s not a very long book, but you might like Wylding Hall, by Elizabeth Hand. Maybe Picnic at Hanging Rock, by Joan Lindsay, too.


  2. RR Gilmore says:

    I was going to suggest either Wylding Hall (Elizabeth Hand) or maybe Picnic at Hanging Rock (Joan Lindsay). It is hard to find spooky stories that are not ridden with gore!


  3. Michelle says:

    You need to read her other book, The Broken Girls. I liked it better than this one, but it is in a similar vein.


  4. Pingback: The Broken Girls, by Simone St. James | The Zen Leaf

  5. Pingback: The Book of Cold Cases, by Simone St. James | The Zen Leaf

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