The Sanatorium - Sarah Pearse

Half-hidden in a forest on the Swiss Alps, Elin visits her estranged brother at a brand new hotel to celebrate his engagement. When the weather takes a turn for the worse guests and staff are trapped in the hotel, the only road down the mountain blocked and wind too bad for air evacuation, what happens when a weighed-down body is discovered in the pool?


Let me tell you something, if a hardback is on sale for £5 in a supermarket you can bet your ass I'm picking it up, especially if it has pretty yellow sprayed edges.


I'd seen this book everywhere and the anticipation of it's release was felt all over my Twitter universe. Sarah herself has been communicating with readers non-stop to promote her book and when I saw it on offer in Sainsbury's I jumped to pick it up (I actually sent my fiancé to buy it). The concept of an old spooky sanatorium, transformed into a hotel, being the setting of a thriller novel makes me so happy. So many thrillers are set in normal towns to creep out the reader, getting them to wonder how something terrible could happen in a quiet town, but sometimes you really need that isolated, empty building to get the atmosphere turned up to eleven. Pearse does an excellent job of dropping the reader in the middle of that snowy mountain forest, the setting could not have been described better, the atmosphere was immediate and kept me on edge for the whole of the novel.


Traumatic backgrounds feel natural for characters in this kind of story, however, Elin referenced her past often and how it turned her onto a crime solving career path but she didn't seem to have ever recovered her personality. She was timid, unavailable and destructive in her interactions with others, this is typical but Elin did tip onto the side of too disconnected for her to be a likeable character. On that note, none of the characters ever dipped into 'likeable' territory but it didn't feel necessary, Elin could have been more likeable but the others were perfectly described for their roles in the story.


Whilst the characterisation of Elin could have been perfected a little the narrative itself was so enticing! The initial switching of perspectives gave me so many ideas as to who was behind the mystery and how it would play out. As the tempo of the story increased, as did the weather, a storm perfectly captured the chaos inside the hotel and although I wished it would have happened a bit earlier on in the story, once the action starts it doesn't stop. Pearse drops details here and there that prompts us to wonder how the history of the sanatorium and the new murders are connected but the eventual reveal was unexpected! As a reader you suspect everyone and anyone but the ending still amazed me, the clues that were expertly hidden within the story made this an epic conclusion.


The final few pages leave a lot to be imagined and left me dumbfounded, Pearse set up the pins at the beginning of the novel and by the last word had knocked them all down.


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