The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James is the mystery/thriller you’ve always wanted to read about the quintessentially creepy roadside motel.
The Sun Down Motel
The Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York is everything my spidey senses could want. The rooms are all clean if dated. The owner is nice. But something is just the littlest bit off.
Then Viv the night clerk goes missing in 1982.
In 2017, her niece, Carly, arrives in Fell to discover the truth about what happened to her aunt.
Haunted hijinks ensue.
I have read enough of St. James’s books now to know she has a talent for setting. She delivers the picturesque, cozy mystery setting in a naively brilliant fashion. Because she does not write cozy mysteries. She’s only giving you this setting to give you a false sense of security.
Fell is that little town in upstate New York that probably looks like a postcard in the fall complete with its own liberal arts college. But The Sun Down Motel is downright freaking haunted, and there’s a string of unsolved murders.
This set up is so twisted I can’t help but lap it up every time. It’s a great trick and one that works without fail.
Once more St. James sprinkles two strong leads with a healthy dose of fun side characters. Carly’s roommate in particular gets all the credit. Wow. So many awesome traits in one character that effectively cranks up the tension through the whole story. And she’s a SIDE CHARACTER.
What I love about St. James’s characters is that she never gives you characters that are all this or that. She is happy to toss in some moral ambiguity that makes you question your own stance on things. Because you get these characters. You get why they do what they do, and it makes the story so relatable. A ghost story. RELATABLE.
The Sun Down Motel is told from two points of view, those of Viv and Carly. I love the competing timelines. It’s like both characters are sleuthing and chasing each other to the conclusion. The tension was ripe from the very beginning. You didn’t know who would solve the mystery first.
St. James writes the ghost stories every Nancy Drew Scooby Doo loving kid has always wanted, and she delivers in The Sun Down Motel. The ghosts are especially creepy in this one. I read The Book of Cold Cases before this one, and I thought those ghosts were scary. This was worse. I was so sure these ghosts meant to harm our main characters, but I could never be exactly sure. It was brilliant.
I am devouring St. James’s backlist and loving every minute. I strongly encourage you to explore all of them as well and watch St. James’s writing talent blossom.