You won’t want to leave…until you can’t.
An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.
Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it’s beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous – as does her brother, Isaac.
And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin’s unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.
But no-one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they’re all in…
Wow, wow, wow. The Sanatorium was one of the best crime novels I have read in a very long time and Sarah Pearse has arrived with an almighty bang.
A luxury hotel in the heights of the Swiss mountains as a snow storm threatened total isolation, and a dead body turned up in the bottom of the spa pool. Well I arrived along with Elin and boyfriend Will, and I must admit the prospect of luxury was tempting, but then just like Elin and Will I am not sure I wanted to stay as the snow storm ramped up several notches, the dead body became bodies and the stakes for Elin, in particular went off the scale.
Elin, was wonderful, fragile, anxious, grief stricken, a head full of a dead brother Sam, a need to discover the truth from brother Issac, and a career as a detective on hold. Yet Pearse gave her inner resolve and strength, guts and determination that pushed her boundaries, that made her confront her demons and her own personal truths. I think this is what I liked, that dual narrative, the personal that clashed with the investigation, the circumstances and events that pushed Elin out of her comfort zone, out of her often maudlin and frustrating mental torpor.
And what of the murder, of the events that unfolded? Lets put it this way, it was the stuff of nightmares. Pearse’s imagery definitely made me uncomfortable as the killer carried out their dreadful acts. Like, Elin you wanted to know what drove them, what grudge or revenge they wrought, what connected them to the hotel. And this is where for me it got interesting, the connection with the past, the hotels’ previous role as a sanatorium, the often macabre artifacts that littered the hotel. Like Elin, you tried to make the connections, only for Pearse to switch tack, to lay a few red herrings that led to multiple suspects, before the truth wormed its way out. It was a truth you could never have guessed so grotesque, so truly awful you would have been forgiven for believing it was mere fiction until reading Pearse’s afterword and the research she carried out and poured into her novel.
Pearses’s skill lay in her ability to make you live every moment with her characters, the spine chilling imagery, the heart stopping moments of such high intense tension and drama that meant you couldn’t read fast enough so intent were you on discovering what would happen next.
Elin may have been Pearse’s main character but the star had to be the hotel, its surroundings and the weather. The stark, impersonal feel she gave to the hotel, its strong severe decoration with its sharp lines gave it that less cosy feel, you couldn’t relax, felt on edge just waiting for something, never sure what that something would be. Its isolation only added to that edginess, and as the snow fell and the storm closed in, you had the sense of an eerie stillness, of a quiet calm interspersed with moments of drama as the the world closed in on Elin before exploding into that dreadful truth.
I am not sure what else I can say about The Sanatorium without giving any spoilers, only to say, that ending, and at that my lips are well and truly sealed.
Please please get in touch with your local independent bookshop and buy The Sanatorium you will not regret it. One more thing, any Netflix, TV, film production crews reading this, please buy the rights and get it onscreen, in the right hands it would make for amazing viewing.
I would like to thank Bantam Press for a copy of The Sanatorium to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Sarah Pearse lives by the sea in South Devon with her husband and two daughters. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick and worked in Brand PR for a variety of household brands. After moving to Switzerland in her twenties, she spent every spare moment exploring the mountains and still has a home in the Swiss Alpine town of Crans Montana, the dramatic setting that inspired her novel. Sarah has always been drawn to the dark and creepy – remote spaces and abandoned places – so when she read an article in a local Swiss magazine about the history of sanatoriums in the area, she knew she’d found the spark of the idea for her debut novel, The Sanatorium. Her short fiction has been published in a wide variety of magazines and has been shortlisted for several prizes.
You can find Sarah on Twitter @SarahVPearse and Instagram @sarahpearseauthor