Friday Book Whimsy: The Sanatorium

Picture this: You’re at a fancy hotel in an isolated town located in the Swiss Alps. It starts to snow, and soon turns into a blizzard. An avalanche prevents anyone from getting in or out of the hotel. All of this sounds bleak enough, but then people start being killed.

Sound like And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie?

Well, no one can compare to Ms. Christie, but author Sarah Pearse does a darn good job of tell a chilling tale in her debut novel, The Sanatorium.

Elin is taking a break from her job as a London police detective to meet her brother and his fiance at a brand new minimalist hotel outside of the ski village of Crans-Montana, Switzerland. Her brother Isaac and his fiance Laure are celebrating their engagement. The hotel was formally a sanatorium for people with TB, but has long been vacant.

Elin and her brother Isaac have been estranged for some time because Elin blames Isaac for the drowning death of their brother. She agrees to meet them in Crans-Montana to give him a chance to explain exactly what happened. Elin’s boyfriend Will joins her.

It isn’t long before one of their party is lost while skiing, and evidence points to her being pushed off the side of the mountain. A short time later, an avalanche surrounds the area with snow and prevents anyone from coming or going, including the police. Out of necessity, Elin — using her detective experience — begins to investigate.

But then more people are killed, one by one, and it has to be one of their party who is the murderer. Could it be Isaac?

There is just the right amount of creepiness in the hotel, with its retched history, its stark decor, and the blizzard separating them from the rest of the world. Pearse’s writing is as stark and creepy as the hotel itself. The author made the reader feel the cold as well as the fear that they might be the next victim. I felt like there were a few too many side stories, and that took away from what is a great mystery.

All in all, I recommend the book.

Here is a link to the book.