9.28.2022 | Wednesday

The Sun Down Motel

category: Book Reviews

The Sun Down Moteltitle: The Sun Down Motel
author: Simone St. James
published: 18 February 2020
publisher: Berkley
genre(s): thrillers
pages: 326
source: Book of the Month
format: hardcover
buy/shelve it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

rating: five-stars

the blurb

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn't right at the Sun Down, and before long she's determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

a few notes

public reading: safe for the public eye
cover notes: vintage, eerie but not matching description
keywords/phrases: family, mystery, murder, ghosts
mood reading: in the mood for mystery, ghosty vibes
bonus points: strong female characters
anti-bonus points: dichotomy on sexual status, unnecessary character

my review

The story is told through the past (1982) and present (2017) timelines of Viv and Carly respectively, who are aunt and niece. Although Viv disappeared before Carly was born, she’s always wanted answers about what happened. Her mother refused to talk about it, so it wasn’t until after she died that Carly felt she could find the answers she needed.

I loved the two women as main characters. Despite never having met or influenced each other, they are startingly similar to one another. Both are smart, independent women who live life on their own terms, taking risks in pursuit of their goals. Even their storylines parallel one another’s. But even with all of their similiarities, they are very different people, and that’s what makes the story so interesting.

cover notes

The cover is gorgeous, to be sure. But it was odd to me that it didn’t fit the description within the novel. The sign was mentioned often, almost a character of its own, always described as blue and yellow with a vacancy sign and another noting cable TV. So that, while minor, was odd.

anti-bonus points

There was also weird dichotomy about the sexual status of many of the female characters. Viv and Carly are referenced as virgins several times throughout their storylines. There was clear criticism of the coverage of the missing women’s sexual status by the author, yet their virginity was so significant that it had to be emphasized. Why? It was bizarre enough that it cost half a star on my rating.

Another thing I didn’t understand was the prescence of Callum. Did he have an interesting side story? Perhaps, but it really didn’t add much to the story. So he seemed somewhat unnecessary.


The person who could be truly alone, in the company of no one but oneself and one’s own thoughts—that person was stronger than anyone else. More ready. More prepared.

I’ve been gone a long time. You don’t know what it’s like to have unresolved shit in your past, shit that weighs you down and draws you back to a certain place.

book flights & matchmaking

About Simone St. James

Simone St. James is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Book of Cold Cases, The Sun Down Motel, The Broken Girls and The Haunting of Maddy Clare, which won two RITA awards from Romance Writers of America and an Arthur Ellis Award from Crime Writers of Canada. She wrote her first ghost story, about a haunted library, when she was in high school, and spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to write full-time. She lives outside Toronto, Canada with her husband and a spoiled cat.

Rating Report
Overall: five-stars

reading challenges:

  • 2022 PopSugar Reading Challenge
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