Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Once a sanatorium treating tuberculosis patients, it was abandoned years ago and had fallen into disrepair. Long plagued by troubling rumours, it has recently been renovated into a lavish hotel.
An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place detective Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin’s on a career break, scarred by a particularly brutal case she just can’t shake. So when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancee, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept.
But when Elin wakes the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. And she soon realises that Laure is not the first person to have vanished mysteriously from the old sanatorium.
As one of the worst snowstorms in thirty years descends, Elin starts to connect the dots between Laure’s disappearance and the hotel’s troubling history. Just when she thinks she’s making progress, a body is found, staged to send a terrifying message. With avalanches closing off all access to the hotel, Elin is under pressure to uncover the sanatorium’s secrets and find her brother’s fiancee before the killer strikes again.
To start with I absolutely loved this book. It was creepy and atmospheric and the method of killing was horrific and unique. So far so good. But I did have a couple of issues, though reading in staves – one every two days with The Pigeonhole – didn’t help with the suspense or the continuity.
Issue number one was that the main protagonist police detective Elin was suffering from PTSD following a particularly difficult and horrific case, but seemed to suddenly forget all that and jump into police mode a bit too quickly. My second issue was the ending but I can’t say any more because of spoilers so you will have to make up your own mind.
Basically the plot revolves around an old TB sanatorium which has been turned into a very expensive, luxury ski resort called Le Sommet, in a remote part of the Swiss Alps. Elin’s brother Isaac has invited her and boyfriend Will to celebrate his engagement to Laure at the resort. But Le Sommet had always been plagued by controversy. There was huge objection locally to its renovation and one of the architects disappeared before it opened. Now I could have warned them this would happen. There was an old sanatorium near Cheltenham (where I live) that was turned into flats some years ago and many people believed it was haunted. I wouldn’t want to live there but the flats sold well so maybe it’s just me!
Elin and Will finally arrive via a treacherous, snow-covered, mountainous road (my worst nightmare), but the next day Laure has disappeared. She is not the only one and the mayhem and murders begin. Then the weather turns and they are all trapped. Like Agatha Christie with snow. The killings are too terrifying and horrific to describe this book as a good romp, but at times the pace could have taken on Usain Bolt for speed and there were enough red herrings for a smorgasbord (if we were in Sweden not Switzerland).
The atmosphere and setting alone were worth five stars but I’ve dropped it to four as I found the ending too convoluted and slightly unconvincing. A good exciting read though.
Many thanks to The Pigeonhole, the author and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.
About the Author
Sarah Pearse lives by the sea in South Devon with her husband and two daughters. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick and worked in Brand PR for a variety of household brands. After moving to Switzerland in her twenties, she spent every spare moment exploring the mountains and the Swiss Alpine town of Crans Montana, the dramatic setting that inspired her novel.
Sarah has always been drawn to the dark and creepy – remote spaces and abandoned places – so when she read an article in a local Swiss magazine about the history of sanatoriums in the area, she knew she’d found the spark of the idea for her debut novel, The Sanatorium. Her short fiction has been published in a wide variety of magazines and has been shortlisted for several prizes.
You can find Sarah on Twitter @SarahVPearse and Instagram @sarahpearseauthor