Title: The Sanatorium
Author: Sarah Pearse
Published: February 16th 2021
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Crime, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Rating: 4.5 stars
High in the Swiss Alps, a luxury hotel opens in what was once a sanatorium, but the new design can’t hide the building’s dark history for long . . . This is the chilling debut from the hottest new talent in crime fiction.
EVERYONE’S IN DANGER. ANYONE COULD BE NEXT.
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 . . .
‘This isn’t about the hotel at all. It’s about the past, what the hotel used to be.
A dark history, bone chilling events from the past, secrets, murder, revenge and deadly intent forms The Sanatorium, a debut novel by Sarah Pearse. Set in the snow-capped Swiss Alps, Le Sommet looms large over the icy landscape. Once a notorious sanatorium designed to treat patients suffering from tuberculosis, Le Sommet is now a luxurious tourist retreat. But danger lurks in the background, waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting visitors of Le Sommet.
The Sanatorium is all about atmosphere and place. The reader is immediately plunged in the depths of a murky hotel establishment named Le Sommet. Located in the stunning but dangerous Swiss Alps region, this isolated hotel is the site for plenty of intrigue, past secrets and death. We follow Elin, a detective taking a much-needed break from a recent case, as she comes to Le Sommet to celebrate her brother’s engagement. But Elin and her brother are estranged, so this is not a welcome visit. Elin feels an immediate sense of unease due to the predicated weather conditions. A storm is brewing over the hotel and it creates more stress for Elin, a woman already on the edge. But despite the unwelcome weather conditions, Elin is drawn to the stunning hotel establishment of Le Sommet. There is something very alluring about this building, it was once a place where TB patients could receive essential medical treatment. But a look into the past history of the hotel leaves a dark and sinister aftertaste on Elin’s mind. When the fiancée of Elin’s brother goes missing, Elin must once again put on her detective hat to help find Lauree. But other events occur in the wake of this mystery, sending the guests of Le Sommet in a state of disarray.
I have been closely tracking The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse for some time now. All the reviews I have read have been very positive for this debut release across social media, Goodreads, my book friendship circle and my own book club. I had to juggle a few books in my reading schedule to include this one as it wasn’t a review book. I’m glad I made the effort to bump this one up the pile. The Sanatorium is exactly the type of book I love, a gothic fiction with plenty of danger lurking in the background. I also loved the historical mystery element to this one.
Immediately Sarah Pearse sets her scene. Pearse is a writer with a commanding voice and a deft hand, drawing the reader in to a rich setting filled with tension, bitterness, revenge, speculation and danger. Everyone seems on edge, including the lead and I felt this waft from the book as soon as I picked it up. The drive up to the Le Sommet property really works well to solidify the impending sense of doom. We feel the strong sense of unease as the treacherous roads, ghastly weather conditions and the sheer isolation of Le Sommet’s location is described. In terms of scenery and stage setting, Sarah Pearse has outdone herself in this department, I could not fault her prose in this area of The Sanatorium.
Our lead, a detective named Elin Warner, is quite the enigma. To be honest, I don’t think I ever completely connected to Elin. She seems to keep people at arm’s length, especially her loved ones. Perhaps Elin’s work and training as a detective has given her a cold stance, she is quite distanced from the people around her. Elin is a person avoiding emotions where she can. I did appreciate Elin’s interactions with the cast in this novel, it made a good read. I was suspicious about many of the players in this book, including those who are every close to Elin and those who are not. On the whole The Sanatorium really bamboozled me, I think I had zero clue about who was causing the grief in this book! Sarah Pearse is a very adept writer who is able to keep her audience in the dark.
What intrigued me the most about this story was the hidden history behind Le Sommet’s past life as a sanatorium. I definitely have a thirst for stories set in these surrounds. Sarah Pearse turns up the creep factor with this component of her novel. I do like a good scary gothic thriller and The Sanatorium delivered plenty of shivers my way. The end of the book details some very revealing information about the nature of Le Sommet’s role in the past as a treatment facility for women suffering from the effects of TB. This angle of the book allows author Sarah Pearse to take a critical look at the mistreatment of women during times past for ailments that were masked as TB. These women were locked away from society and consequently subjected to experimental medical practices. This part of the book was truly heartbreaking and eye opening.
The only letdown in The Sanatorium that made me mark this down half a star (it was very nearly a five-star read) was the odd epilogue that seemed to send everything off kilter after I thought the book closed off in a very reasonable way. I won’t delve into this further, but it did send me in a last-minute tizzy! Despite this, I give The Sanatorium a very high recommendation, you cannot go past a well-crafted novel such as this one if you love a top-notch gothic horror.
The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse was published on 16th February 2021 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Sanatorium, Sarah Pearse, visit here.