As we inch closer to what promises to be a strange fall, I’ve decided to lean in and read more horror. Although The Sun Down Motel isn’t super horrifying, St. James did pull off some fun ghost tricks.
Have you ever noticed those accounts run by hot people on Twitter that only post vague things or song lyrics and get thousands of likes? Like ‘if he missed you he would call you’ or ‘be kind to other people, you never know what they’re going through.’ While that last one is good advice, the accounts seem like spam to me. And one thing these spammers love to do, is talk about seasons. Like clock work, they will list all the great things about summer; long nights, swimming, hanging out with friends, sunshine. And then as soon as the first leaf falls, they change their tune.
Sweaters, movie nights in, boots, pumpkin flavored everything; summer is a distant memory even though it’s 80 degrees outside. I do not feel that strongly, and I will never retweet those accounts, but I do love fall. And summer, and spring and winter. There’s something about romanticizing the seasons that gives us hope, the promise of something great waiting for us with every new beginning.
And to kick off this new era, we have The Sun Down Motel. My first ever St. James read and an all around interesting premise.
It’s 1982. We’re in a tiny town in upstate New York called Fell with a woman named Viv Delaney. Viv works the nightshift at a motel, the Sun Down Motel in fact, and has started seeing things. They start small, the smell of a cigarette but no one is there. A door is open that shouldn’t be. But they don’t stay small. Soon, every shift is plagued by disturbances that can only be supernatural. Viv, afraid but determined, digs into the history of the town and finds a string of murdered women.
She also learns one of their bodies was dumped at the Sun Down while it was under construction. Do that have anything to do with the strange man who keeps checking in under different names?
Flash forward to today. Carly Kirk’s mother has just died. And with her, the last memories of an Aunt she never met. Viv went missing in 1982 and Carly is determined that she gets answers as to what happened to the woman she’s never met. So she goes to Fell.
And moves in to the apartment where her aunt lived. And takes the night shift at the Sundown Motel. Anyone else feeling a sense of foreboding?
The two stories are told simultaneously, one chapter from Viv, then one from Carly. It’s an interesting premise and I was excited by the dual timelines. Unfortunately, the story itself didn’t measure up.
I’m wondering if it’s me. I liked Lonesome Dove and Every Other Weekend, Thick as Thieves, but honestly, a majority of the books I’ve read recently have left me unimpressed. The Night Swim, The Lying Game, You Had Me at Hola, All Night Sun, The Marriage Game. Is it the impending doom that is the state of affairs in America? Am I going stir crazy? Are my standards too high?
I’m not sure. I really wanted to like the Sun Down. I was excited about the ~spooky vibes.~ But it just fell flat.
The writing itself was fine, it was readable and pretty descriptive and not too repetitive which was good. But the plot was predicable and the characters were dull.
It started right from the beginning. If my mother had just died, would I drop out of college and move to a tiny town to track down an Aunt I’d never met? Just to make sure her memory stays alive or whatever. No. And while grief is a terrible burden that people handle in different ways, Carly doesn’t seem like she’s grieving at all. It read like a thinly veiled excuse to move the plot forward.
Also, how on earth does a rundown, sketchy motel with literally almost no customers stay in business for four decades. Seriously, in all the overnight shifts both women take, there are like 10 guests. Again, it seemed like St James needed it for the plot and just kind of ignored it. So I had issues from the beginning, but things only went downhill from there.
Of course it’s a serial killer. Of course the only man we pay any attention to is the culprit.
Not to mention St. James basically only included people if they were directly involved in the crimes in some way. The random boy from the library, the old PI, the weed dealer, the policewoman. Those who weren’t involved directly, Carly’s roommate and the guy staying in the motel, had “deep” backstories and wild personal issues but didn’t actually contribute to the plot in a meaningful way.
And I can’t be the only person who saw that ending coming a mile away.
When we finally do uncover everything, we learn that this isn’t a horror story. I guess it could be a murder mystery? It’s definitely a stumbling toward a discovery. And sadly, the discovery was unimpressive.