Friday Book Whimsy: The Sun Down Motel

Those who follow my reading choices know that I’m a big fan of mysteries. What most people don’t know is that I have developed somewhat of an interest in scary books. Not horror novels like Bring Me Flesh; I’ll Bring You Hell, a book by an author named Martin Rose, of whom I’ve never heard, and whose books I will never read. But a good ol’ gothic mystery novel with a side of ghosts can bring me satisfaction. The Haunting of Hill House, by writer Shirley Jackson is a good example of the type of scary book to which I’m drawn. Hauntingly scary, but no Freddy Krueger popping out of the closet.

So when a book called The Sun Down Motel, by Simone St. James, an author noted for her creepy novels, comes across my computer screen, you can understand why I was immediately hooked. Last year I read The Broken Girls by the same author, and was suitably impressed. And I have stayed at enough motels with signs that looked just like that illustrated on the cover to be drawn in.

Carly Kirk is at loose ends. She misses her deceased mother. She isn’t finding satisfaction in college. And she has always wondered what happened to her Aunt Viv, who went missing 30 years earlier, before Carly was born. So she drops out of school, and heads to the upper New York town of Fell to retrace the steps of her aunt, and make a true effort to find out what happened and why the police were never able to close the case. All she knows is that Viv ran away from home and found work as the night clerk at The Sun Down Motel in Fell, NY.

Carly arrives in Fell, and begins renting the apartment in which Viv lived.  Soon she accepts a job as the night clerk at The Sun Down Motel. In the course of retracing her aunt’s steps, Carly faces some of the same challenges faced by Viv. The challenges include nightly visits from the victims of the serial killer the police and Viv’s family think murdered Viv.

The Sun Down Motel is part ghost story, part romance, but mostly a mystery with an ending that might take you by surprise. I found the novel to be a great escape from the trials around me.

Here is a link to the book. 

Friday Book Whimsy: The Broken Girls

Simone St. James is the author of a series of books, all ghost stories. Ghost stories have never been my cup of tea, but The Broken Girls intrigued me. I decided to turn on the lights to keep the ghosts at bay and give the book a try.

It’s been 20 years since Fiona Sheridan’s sister Deb was found dead on the grounds of a boarding school called Idlewild in a small Vermont town.  Despite the fact that a man was arrested and has been imprisoned for the murder, Fiona hasn’t come to grips with her sister’s death. Something doesn’t seem right. Now, as part of her job as a journalist, she learns that the school—long closed and reportedly haunted—is about to be rehabilitated and reopened.

What Fiona doesn’t know is that 20 years before her sister was killed, another girl went missing from Idlewild, which at that time was a boarding school for throw-away girls: illegitimate, unloved, without parents. So when a body is dug up during the reconstruction, Fiona throws herself into learning the secrets of Idlewild and the truth about her sister’s death.

Part mystery, part thriller, part ghost story, I couldn’t stop reading this book. I’m generally not fond of ghost stories, generally finding them somewhat silly, but Mary Hand—the unsettled ghost who can’t find rest at Idlewild—seemed to enhance the story rather than distract. I found all of the female characters to be strong and interesting. I especially loved the four roommates who kept each other strong in the 1950 story line.

The ending was delivered with a twist, and was quite satisfying. All in all, I enjoyed The Broken Girls very much.

Here is a link to the book.