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Friday, May 28, 2021

Much-Hyped The Sanitorium Less Satisfying Than Hoped For

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

High in the Swiss Alps sits Le Sommet, a just-opened luxury hotel with a minimalist approach that showcases the jaw-dropping views to perfection.  The place should exude a peaceful vibe, but despite extensive remodeling, the building still holds an unsettling feeling left over from its days as a tuberculosis hospital.  Whispers of unease whistle through Le Sommet's newly-painted halls, hinting at its dark past...

The last place Detective Elin Warner wants to be is on a remote mountaintop with her estranged brother, but without a good excuse to skip his engagement party, she really doesn't have a choice.  As the assistant manager of Le Sommet, Elin's sister-in-law is eager to show off the new hotel.  Despite Laure's enthusiasm, Elin feels completely unsettled by Le Sommet, with its strange history and cut-off location.  The onset of a winter storm doesn't help her feelings of claustrophobia and disquiet.  On leave following a traumatizing case, Elin is supposed to be resting.  Le Sommet should offer the perfect refuge for her.  So, why does she feel so discombobulated?

When Laure disappears suddenly, Elin is immediately on alert.  The assistant manager is not answering her phone and the weather has made travel nearly impossible.  Where could Laure possibly be?  When Elin finds the gruesome answer, a startling truth becomes terrifyingly clear: someone in the hotel (or very nearby) is a cold-blooded killer.  While Elin collects clues, another woman disappears.  With no way off the mountain, all the hotel guests are in danger unless Elin can find a murderer—a murderer who just may be her own brother.  Racing against time, she must put all her rusty detecting skills to use before it's too late for her and everyone else. 

Locked-room mysteries set in isolated places are my jam.  Throw in inclement weather and a creepy old building and you've got my attention, 100 percent.  The Sanatorium, a debut novel by Sarah Pearse, combines all of these elements to create a compelling novel, the kind I usually devour and love.  Did it fulfill all my thriller-loving dreams?  Well...     

The novel is very atmospheric, with an eerie vibe that helps to keep the reader feeling wrong-footed throughout the story. I appreciate that in a mystery/thriller since it keeps me on my toes, always wondering whom to trust, whom to suspect, and what's going to happen next. Plot-wise, there's plenty of action to keep the tale moving. Although I saw the killer coming, I wasn't absolutely sure until the last third or so of the book. While their identity wasn't a huge shock to me, there were some other twists that caught me by surprise. So, although The Sanatorium is almost 400 pages long, it never got boring for me (I have heard other readers describe it as slow, however).

That being said, the novel's cast is almost wholly unlikable. Elin is sympathetic, but even she isn't terribly appealing. Nor is she very convincing as a detective. Although I get that she's supposed to be suffering from PTSD and her skills are rusty after a year's hiatus, she still seems awfully slow on the uptake. I also had a hard time reconciling the killer with their crimes. Neither the murderer's personality nor their motive really seemed to explain the very gruesome nature of the killings. I also felt like there were a lot of inconsistencies in the background of this novel—the hotel guests all seem way too calm, for instance.  Even Elin just kind of takes the events in stride, which feels a tad bit unrealistic.  All these things kept me from loving The Sanatorium, which ended up being only an okay read for me.  The epilogue seems to hint that this will be the first book in a series.  Would I read a sequel?  I think I would, although I can't say I'm chomping at the bit. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Shiver by Allie Reynolds and One By One by Ruth Ware)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (1 F-bomb, plus milder invectives), violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Sanatorium with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.


  1. I definitely think this one is a victim of being overhyped. I'm into the locked room mystery in a creepy old building, so I'll still be reading it. But I hope I'll be able to go into it with the right expectations.

  2. I'm one of those who felt this book and its mystery read slow. And I did not see the ending coming, or anticipate the killer. For me, there weren't enough pertinent clues. Or maybe I just got bored following Elin around the hotel.

  3. What a great setting for a mystery/thriller, but an unlikable cast is such a bummer!

  4. You and Lark seem to agree that this one is probably not worth the trouble, so I'll be taking a pass on it. It sounds like a pretty irritating read.

  5. UGH, other than the desirable atmosphere this was a bomb for me. That Elin OMG, how did she ever function in her old job?

  6. I love locked room mysteries, but this one doesn't sound like it would fit my tastes too well. Great review, thanks!

  7. Love your message to the FTC! I've been thinking of picking up The Sanatorium in print when I see it at the library. I've been waiting forever for the audiobook download from the library. Now I'm not so sure I should bother!

  8. I love how eerie it sounds, but I've seen mixed reviews too. Interesting too that it may be a series... ?

    FTC hahahaha :):)


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