The Sun Down Motel | Simone St. James

One sentence: 

This book was good but not great, even though it had the potential.

Three thoughts:

  • Ghosts AND murders! Usually you only get one or the other. I very much enjoyed the combination!
  • Overall, this was a good book. It was a quick read and kept my interest.
  • I am FURIOUS that the hotel in the cover photo doesn’t match the actual description of The Sun Down Motel at all. FURIOUS.


  • Characters: 2/5. This was definitely a book about a story, not about the characters in it. They were pretty much all flat characters, with the possible exception of Viv. Carly was the kind of character who I assume essentially is the author, who just wants to include herself in one of her novels. Alma was interesting, especially at the end, but not interesting enough for me to think much more about it.
  • Plot: 5/5. I am INTO this story. Carly moves to Fell, New York, where her aunt Viv disappeared in the seventies. She ends up taking a job at the same motel where her aunt worked, and tries to solve the mystery of her aunt’s disappearance. The general plot was amazing. I had some issues with the execution, but overall the idea is great. Especially because it does not go the obvious way. I enjoyed the fact that the story progressed through each timeline, both from Viv’s perspective and from Carly’s, and it was interesting to see them learn things about approximately the same time on their respective timelines.
  • Setting: 2/5. I never had a clear picture of the Sun Down in my head. The descriptions were unclear – for example, the hallway “corridors” that were open to the outside, and the multiple descriptions of the L shape of the hotel, yet I never actually understood where the office was in relation to the stairwell and I’ll never stop being angry when book covers don’t match the descriptions in the books. I did enjoy the descriptions of cold, dark, upstate New York in the winter.
  • Style/Voice: 3/5. I’m not sure if this should fall under style or not, but whatever. The chapters alternated between Viv and Carly, which was fine. I enjoyed it, actually. However, it was awfully tricky to keep up with who has learned what at which point. There were at least three (and finally, four) dead girls, with Viv and Carly each slowly discovering each story. It was really difficult, as a reader trying to piece together the puzzle along with Viv and Carly, to figure out where each person was in their discoveries. Also, I got SO TIRED of the narrator’s descriptions of peoples’ clothing. One line essentially said “they probably assumed that I was a college student too, because I was wearing boots and jeans and a sweater and a jacket.” YOU KNOW, the same thing all college students wear! It’s a dead giveaway! Also, the incessant references to how put-together and well-to-do Callum was just immediately told you that he was a bad dude. So like, this kind of read as a high-schooler’s first ever short story.
  • Likeability: 4/5. Despite my frustrations with the book, I enjoyed it! Again, the story was really compelling and aside from me rolling my eyes periodically, it was entertaining. I’d read another book by this author.

Overall Rating: 3.2/5

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