Friday, November 6, 2020

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St James-- Creepy and Ghosty, But Kinda Repetitive

The Sun Down Motel

When Viv leaves home for NYC in 1982, she doesn't quite end up there. Somehow she gets stuck in a small town in New York called Fell. She gets a job working the night shift at a motel that sits out on the highway and immediately knows that this motel and town has secrets. Missing and murdered women seem to be a theme here and if Viv doesn't want to wind up as one of them, she knows she needs to figure out what is going on....

In 2017, Carly is determined to find out what happened to her long-lost aunt Vivian. Viv disappeared in 1982 while working the night shift at a motel, so Carly travels to the small town to see if there's anything she can find out. Immediately she realizes that Fell is like the town that time forgot. She gets the same job her aunt had, and is determined to find out what this hotel is hiding.











Since this book came out earlier this year, I've been hearing so much about it. How it was such a good, creepy mystery-- so it sounded like the perfect book to read around Halloween time!! To say I was hyped going into this was an understatement. I was 100% on board to love this book (especially because I've been reading and loving mainly Adult Mystery/Thrillers lately).

And I did like this book. But did I LOVE it?? No. I think a list is in order to organize my feelings about this book:

  • The Setting.  This book is set in a motel on the outskirts of a town called Fell.  Both the motel and the town brought some interesting things to the story.  The motel was one of those relics from the past-- those cheap motels that are never updated and probably end up being rented by the hour at some point.  The town of Fell was basically a place where time stood still.  The modern part of this story takes place in 2017, but it was clear little had changed from the 2nd timeline of 1982.  I enjoyed the creepy motel setting and the way Fell felt unchanged by time-- it was endearing in a way and made things easier to figure things out in the 2017 timeline.
  • The Dual Timelines. The first timeline is in 1982 and features Viv, a girl who was originally going to New York City, but winds up in Fell working the night shift at The Sun Down Motel.  While there, she discovers that there's been a string of unsolved murders taking place in and around Fell.  
  • The second timeline is present day (2017) and features Carly, Viv's niece who is determined to find out what happened to her.  Viv disappeared while working the night shift at The Sun Down Motel and has never been found.  Carly has always been curious about why her mother refused to talk about her aunt that she's never seen or met beyond a faded newspaper clipping.  She ends up traveling to Fell and working the same shift that Viv worked at The Sun Down-- all the while looking into what could've happened to Viv.  
  • It was an interesting concept and definitely could've worked, but for some reason it just didn't for me.  The 2 timelines were so similar-- the girls were around the same age, were both very similar in how naive they were, they were both investigating virtually the exact same crimes and coming to the same conclusions, and they were both living in the same apartment and working at the same motel.  Adding to that, the town of Fell was like a time-warp-- it was practically unchanged from Viv's time there to Carly's.  Because of these things, I was forever getting the details confused (was Carly the one who saw the ghost that time, or was it Viv?? Was Carly the one who figured that one detail out, or was it Viv?).  I needed more differences in the characters and their movements to be able to keep things straight.
  • The Ghosts. Normally I do not like a surprise ghost book.  I mean, I don't mind a this place is creepy and may be haunted book, but this was straight up real ghosts in your face from the get-go.  And usually that would bug me and make it feel fake, but here I actually liked it.  The ghosts were scary in a The Sixth Sense kind of way-- they were angry and had unfinished business.  I really think the ghosts saved this book for me.
  • The Mystery. I thought it was an interesting mystery.  Did I think that BOTH Viv and Carly would figure out everything a serial killer was doing when the police couldn't??  I mean, that's kind of far fetched-- but it was a really good mystery to follow despite that.  There were multiple twists and I kind of did love that because I saw the major twist coming, but didn't figure out the minor twist at all (even though the minor twist was kind of unnecessary and didn't really make a ton of sense).
  • The Pacing. The best part of this book (besides the creepy ghosts) was that it didn't drag. It's the kind of book that will hook you and keep you wanting to read just one more chapter.
  • Is it YA or Adult?? I know this is classified as Adult Mystery, but it felt VERY YA to me. It's one of those things where just because a book is about teens, doesn't mean it's YA-- and just because this one is about girls in their 20's doesn't mean it's Adult. I think there's more to those categories than age-- and this one just didn't have the Adult Mystery feel. I don't have a definitive reason why I feel it's YA beyond the fact that the writing felt like YA-- it's just my gut feeling being a reader of both genres, but I feel it works better as YA. One reason could be that it didn't feel as polished or developed as Adult Mysteries usually are. Not that I'm talking crap on YA, it's just that Adult Mysteries usually get pretty deep into their characters and this one was very surface level.

I definitely had mixed and complicated feelings on this one. I think some things could've been done better and that the 2 main characters could've been differentiated better-- but I do not regret reading this. It really was the perfect Halloween-time read and I was happy that it was a page-turner.

OVERALL: I'm in between on this one. I liked the creepy motel and the real ghosts that resided there. I wished the characters were better developed and better distinguished from one another. I do recommend this, and I think if you're looking for an easy Mystery to read, this is your book.


Date Published: 2/18/2020
How I got this book: Library
Publisher: Berkley/ Penguin Random House
Type: Adult Mystery/Thriller/Horror



My Rating: 3/5

Character: Carly (and let's be honest, Viv too-- they're the same character)
Book: I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara












8 comments:

  1. I don't do scary books or mysteries for the most part, but I have been seeing this one everywhere. Maybe it was the pacing that made it feel more YA. Many people have told me that was something they liked about YA vs adult fiction.

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    1. It's a little scary because the ghosts are a big part of it and they are creepy!! It could've been the pacing... it was way more actioney than the typical Adult Mystery-- but then it lost some of the development that I'm used to.

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