The Sun Down Motel, by Simone St. James

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s 1982 and Vivian “Viv” Delaney leaves her confining home to find fame and fortune in New York City. By chance, Viv ends up in Fell, New York, where she finds a job as a night manager at the eponymous Sun Down Motel.
At the end of November 1982, Viv disappears.

35 years later, in 2017, her niece, Carly Kirk, follows in Viv’s footsteps after the death of Carly’s mother, Viv’s sister. Carly also flees her overbearing brother, her college courses and her life in general, in pursuit of Viv whose fate she’s determined to discover.

Consequently, Carly, too, goes to Fell and also gets a job at the Sun Down Motel – as the night manager. She even moves into Viv’s old flat and proceeds to not only discover but experience the past…

The book switches (mostly from chapter to chapter) between Viv’s story in 1982 and Carly’s in 2017. While this is currently an often-used storytelling device which would usually distract and, potentially, annoy me, in this instance, it actually adds to the atmosphere of this book.

Its dense, chilling atmosphere, the late night setting (and weary days) is, in fact, one of the major selling points: It has been a long time since I actually lost sleep over a book because I wanted to read just one more chapter…

The writing is (mostly) subtle and elaborate, be it about a “featherlight click sound” or “the perfect, silent hush of night”. Most of all, though, I enjoyed the two converging stories of Viv and Carly who both come to realise not all is as peaceful as it seems in Fell.

I worried for both young women pretty much all the time – a run-down motel, at night, strange noises, the only guests a man who can’t sleep anywhere else, cheating spouses and a strange travelling salesman…

For the most part I was guessing what had happened to Viv and what might yet happen to Carly, both of whom I found very likeable. “The Sun Down Motel” read like a mystery thriller with a supernatural touch (which was, actually, the only part I did not really enjoy, especially not the part at the end…).

For the thrills it gave me, the sleep it stole and its satisfying writing, “The Sun Down Motel” gets four very much deserved stars from me.

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