Book Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book with at least a four-star rating on Goodreads Other PS 2020 reading prompts this wo...

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book with at least a four-star rating on Goodreads

Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book that's published in 2020

TW: Abduction, murder/death, misogyny, mentions of sexual assault

I wouldn't consider myself a murderino, though I've always had a fascination with serial killers and the psychology behind their ways. But I've never actually listened to a podcast, though I did notice My Favorite Murder is on Spotify, and a quick Google search told me it's "true crime comedy," so maybe I'll start listening during my commute. Anyways, The Sun Down Motel is really marketed to murderinos, and in fact dedicated to them as well. But murderino or not, if you're into a good ghost story mixed with a story of a disappearing woman, then this book will be right up your alley.

35 years ago, Carly's aunt Viv took on a job as the night clerk of the Sun Down Motel in the small, mysterious town of Fell, NY. Then she disappeared. Now Carly, the same age as her aunt was when she disappeared, leaves college to enter Fell and search for answers. In Fell, Carly finds herself taking on the same job as her aunt, living in the same apartment, and facing many of the same terrors. 

I've seen Simone St. James' novels around before, but this was my first time reading anything by her, and while I really enjoyed the story, I'm not sure this book would convince me to read more from her. While I loved the story, I wasn't incredibly fond of the writing style.

I didn't love that every single chapter was titled "Fell, NY." It seemed redundant and unnecessary, and irked me irrationally. In terms of the writing, it took me several chapters to get used to it. And prior to getting used to it, I was reading sentences over and over again, because for some reason they weren't making sense to me; the words didn't flow properly. After I was used to the writing style, I was sucked in.

I wasn't sure really if this book was supernatural/a ghost story or if it was a crime story, or what. I wasn't sure what was real and what was speculation. I didn't know what to expect as I read each chapter. And because of those things, I begin to feel like I had to keep reading. I had to know more of the story. I needed to know what had happened, and what would happen next.

The way the story was set up, St. James gives just a little bit of the story at a time. So instead of one big twist, the reader develops an understanding throughout the novel, and learns bits and pieces slowly - just like the way folks tend to learn in real life. It's rarely a big twist or major a-ha moment in real life, so I liked how that slow learning process was integrated into the novel.

I also liked the parallels between Viv's and Carly's stories (1982 and 2017). It was interesting to see the similarities between the two timelines. But it also made it incredibly confusing at times, and I kept getting mixed up about what timeline I was currently reading.

"Some of us like the dark. It's what we know." - The Sun Down Motel, Simone St. James

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was different than many other books I've read and seemed a bit genre-bending. It was spooky and enthralling. I also enjoyed the little easter eggs - like the family named McNamara (as in Michelle McNamara of Golden State Killer fame), or James March (possibly unintentionally the name of a serial killer from AHS: Hotel). If you're into the spooky, true crime, or serial killers - you'll likely enjoy this novel.

Goodreads rating: ★★★★☆

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