The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

Hello Kittens! I hope everyone is staying as well as they can. I know that for many people these are scary and uncertain times and I hope that you are finding comfort in any small ways that you can. I have been finding some small solace in reading. I’ve only been home for a few days but I’ve managed to immerse myself in my TBR pile and plow through a few books that had been lounging without the attention they deserved over the last few weeks. Reading allows me to get out of my head. I only know that things have gotten to be too much in my life when I can no longer focus on a book. Fortunately, I have not reached that point yet. This book is a creepy one that just might take your mind off of the real world for awhile. I know that it did the trick for me.

Title: The Sun Down MotelThe Sun Down Motel

Author: Simone St. James

Author website:

Publisher: Berkley (Penguin Random House imprint)

Publish date: February 18, 2020

ISBN: 9780440000174

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Simone St. James came on my radar last year when I read The Broken Girls as part of my PopSugar Challenge and it blew me away. She’s now on my must-read list, so when her newest book, The Sun Down Motel was offered as one of the options for the January Book of the Month Box, I jumped on it. St. James sets the scenes for creepy mysteries like no one else that I have ever read. She integrates more supernatural elements in this story than she did in The Broken Girls but still creates plenty of scary moments with her earthly characters as well. The story opens with two narratives, separated by 35 years, following Vivian Delaney in 1982 and Carly Kirk in 2017.,

In 1982 Viv Delaney has run away from home and is on her way to New York City to start a new life. She ends up only making it as far as Fell, New York, a sleepy town with limited opportunities. Viv finds work as the night desk clerk at the Sun Down Motel. The job doesn’t require too much of her, since the motel only has a few customers at a time. Soon after starting work, Viv begins to notice some strange happenings at the Sun Down. The more she works there, the more it seems like some of the hotel’s guest checked in…and never left. As Viv begins to unravel the mysteries of the Sun Down, both past and present, she puts herself in real danger. By the end of the first chapter we know one thing for sure about Viv Delaney: by 3am on November 30, 1982, she will vanish.

In 2017, Carly Kirk makes her way to Fell, seeking purpose in her life after the death of her mother. She is drawn to Fell because of an unsolved family mystery, the disappearance of her aunt Viv in 1982. No one in the family would talk about what happened to her aunt, and Carly doesn’t want to live with that mystery hanging over her any longer, so she travels to Fell to find out what really happened. Carly settles into town and starts investigating, ultimately following in her aunt’s footsteps and taking the night desk clerk job at the Sun Down Motel. Along the way she meets a cast of characters who are both helpful and unnerving, including the Sun Down’s long-term residents. She begins putting all of the pieces together and finds herself following the same trails that her aunt did. Carly discovers the truth. Viv Delaney wasn’t the first woman to go missing in Fell. In fact, the town has a history of women meeting violent ends…but Viv was the last.

Told in alternating narratives between Viv and Carly, the reader gets deeply inside the heads of both women. The setting of Fell, New York is eerie, with everyone in town seeming to acknowledge that bad things happen to women in their town. The ambivalence of the townspeople and the local police force in light of these facts only adds to the novel’s tension. Viv’s old-school armchair detective work contrasts sharply with the information that is available to Carly with modern technology. Even as both women are leading the reader to the same conclusion, the story holds so many twists that the reader is going to be flying through the pages, unable to put the book down for fear that they’ll miss something. St. James has a knack for adding supernatural elements that don’t bog down the story. When the final conclusion comes to bear, the real monsters are all too human.

The story is excellent entertainment, but it doesn’t shy away from addressing the very real nature of gender disparity in the 70s. It also succinctly covers issues like mental health and the need to disengage from the facts when they get too dark. The thing that makes this story so good for me, is the fact that Fell, New York, could have been almost any town in the 70s and the story still could have played out this way. Those were dark times, but in all honesty, the story translates well into 2017’s narrative as well. The high point of this story comes when the reader learns how little has actually changed in all those years.

It’s a fast-paced read that mystery readers will love unraveling. Figuring out the whodunnit is only half the battle in this story, where the why and the how is so much more compelling than the who. I would recommend this read to anyone who likes their mysteries a little spooky and isn’t afraid of a little gore. Most of the violence is left off of the page, with the reader left to imagine based on descriptions of the injuries, but it could definitely be a trigger for those who are sensitive to violence against women. Fair warning.

Disclaimer: No disclaimer needed. I got this one through the Book of the Month service that I subscribe to. It’s pretty neat and if you’re an avid reader, I recommend trying it out. You get your choice of books each month across a variety of genres. Some of them are pre-release titles. If you don’t like that month’s offerings, you can pause and choose a book the next month. The prices are reasonable and the titles are top-tier.

My rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon4 glasses of lemonade= a book you could recommend to a book group or anybody who reads.  You might find controversial subject matter, but it is handled delicately.


Most of the violence takes place off of the page. I think this would be a great book group selection because it is going to spur discussion of why society has so much trouble taking the endemic problem of violence against women seriously. It’s also pretty thought provoking when it comes to the nature of justice. There is a very minimal amount of foul language in the book, primarily spoken by villains, which I feel makes it more palatable to readers. Overall, I will be recommending this book to several of my patrons and most of my co-workers.

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