Book Review #21: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James (2020)

Review: 3 out of 5 ⭐️
Title: The Sun Down Motel
Author: Simone St. James
Published: 2020 (Berkley, New York)
Pages: 327 (Hardcover)
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime Thriller, Horror
Link Here

Library copy of The Sun Down Motel next to a bowl of yogurt

Another week in quarantine and these crazy times! I’m going to be more mindful of my reading choices since I’m alone a lot of the time these days.. And this week I’m talking particularly about a much-anticipated new release, The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James. While I’ve seen so many reviews and posts on social media, I still wanted to discuss and review this book. I was interested in reading this one for a few months, and finally got the chance. Before I picked this one up, I did not hear anything but good things about this novel.

The Sun Down Motel centers around a woman who goes missing in 1982 named Vivian Delaney, a lonely, beautiful and young night shift clerk at The Sun Down Motel in Fell, NY. The book jumps between Viv’s story, and her future niece, a young and nerdy Carly Kirk, who travels to Fell to figure out what happened to her aunt 35 years ago and find out why she disappeared from The Sun Down. With the help of some new acquaintances, Carly investigates her aunt’s disappearance by imitating her life in Fell, NY and perhaps falls into trouble herself.

Because if you were a woman, the world was a dangerous place” – Simone St. James, The Sun Down Motel

To be frank, I did not love this novel as much as I thought I would. It was well-written, mysterious and compelling and the twists were rousing. But I did not think the story and how the mystery played out was amazing. Maybe it’s me, and I do enjoy horror, mystery and suspense books, and watch a lot of horror movies. For others, I imagine it will be more frightening and clever, but it was not for myself. The book gave the impression of a cold case, true-crime mystery than anything else with suspense elements rather than horror, which was minimal. I would elaborate on why I thought the horror was bare, but I don’t want to give away spoilers. I also did not care for some of the characters, they felt lacking in personal depth and background. But maybe that was purposeful, keeping the majority of the book’s focus on the main characters, Viv and Carly.

I bet you could sleep in the right place…. You can’t spend the rest of your life here. I bet you could sleep if you were in a place that made you happy. Where you knew you’d wake up to something good” – Simone St. James, The Sun Down Motel

It was certainly a great read, but I do not think it was as amazing as other reviews who rave about this book. I loved the concept, and the plot was entertaining to be certain. Most of all, I admired the continuous commentary from the author on real-life treatment towards women by criminal justice systems and news media. Both groups showcase an attitude towards female victims by classifying, and even profiling the investigation, based on how the women lived while they were alive. Both tend to be more sympathetic towards the middle-class housewife with a child and husband or the good-girl star student virgin, rather than the ‘risky’ sex worker or single, troubled girl who had ‘a lot of boyfriends’. The book’s message that every woman matters and deserves justice was wonderfully communicated.

“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” – Simone St. James, The Sun Down Motel

The Sun Down Motel is fantastic if you’re looking for a light-read, and campy true-crime mystery surrounding a menacing motel in a small town. Be careful and take care of each other. Unfortunately, we live in a society where women need to take almost every precaution before going out alone, even in a harmless seeming situation. Lastly, in my opinion, I can report this book is not too scary to read alone during quarantine!

I give this book a 3 out of 5 stars.


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