Half hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Long plagued by troubling rumors, the former abandoned sanatorium has since been renovated into a five-star minimalist hotel.
An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin's taken time off from her job as a detective, so when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancée, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept.
Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge--there's something about the hotel that makes her nervous. And when they wake the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. With the storm closing off all access to the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.
Elin is under pressure to find Laure, 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 are all in...
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
Given the atmospheric, claustrophobic setting in the Swiss Alps during a blizzard I expected to like this book much more than I did – I wonder what went wrong here?
Let’s start with the things I did enjoy, and the setting is definitely a treat. An old sanatorium high in the Swiss Alps that has been converted into a fancy but sinister hotel – it doesn’t get much better than this. And when a massive blizzard cuts off the hotel from civilisation, and people start dying, the stage is set for a tense closed door mystery. Pearse brings her setting to life with vivid descriptions of the old TB sanatorium and its eerie presence despite having been remodelled into a fancy resort. With a shady history, the building itself seems to exude an air of menace and danger that made for a wonderful backdrop.
So why didn’t it work for me? Probably a few reasons, and mostly to do with reader preference. 1) Mainly, I found the whole premise extremely unbelievable, from the strange way that people suddenly start dying, to the investigative efforts of a British policewoman on leave for PTSD (who has absolutely no jurisdiction in Switzerland), to the reveal of the final culprit and the motives of the murder spree. I felt that the book suffered from the problem of “trying too hard” to fit in everything under the sun to make it a twisty read, only to end up being confusing and lacking cohesion. 2) The characters: even though I liked the premise of Elin, a policewoman with PTSD, I felt that she always kept me at arms’ length and I didn’t bond with her throughout the entirety of the book. As a detective she didn’t ring true for me, even considering that she was recovering from a recent breakdown. As for the other characters, not only did I find most of them thoroughly unlikeable, but they also lacked believability for me. Some remained mere stereotypes I never really got the hang of. I felt entirely emotionally detached throughout the book, which took away a lot of the enjoyment for me. 3) I have found from previous experience that I do better with closed-door mysteries if they are told from one POV only, which helps build suspense for me. Here, the POVs from the murder victims made the story appear choppy, added an added element of having to suspend disbelief and took away a lot of the mystery for me. Again, personal preference, other readers will totally disagree with me here. 4) The final reveal: given that the body count rises throughout the book, I expected an evil villain with a strong motive and found the final reveal just a bit lacklustre and – again – farfetched.
All in all, THE SANATORIUM was a book that contained all the things I usually love in a novel, but for various reasons did not end up working well for me. With a wonderfully atmospheric setting and a mounting body count, it will undoubtedly thrill other readers, though, so it’s one you need to pick up and try for yourself rather than taking my personal reader preferences into account here.
Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.
please be aware of spoilers in comments, read at your own peril
Oh Reese, I’m sure if I met you in “real life,” I would find you to be a lovely person, but I just have to put this out there - your book selections suck....
For the first twenty chapters or so, I thought this book might be a winner and there was no way the plot could go totally off the rails - then the first body is found and things went downhill faster than Andrew Cuomo's approval rating. By the end, I was thinking maybe I should check myself into a sanatorium for sticking with this book.
Let me set the stage ... An imposing, former-sanatorium-turned-five-star-hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place that our protagonist, Elin Warner, wants to be. She is on a sort-of hiatus from her job as a UK detective though, so when her estranged brother, Isaac (whom she secretly suspects of killing their brother when they were young), and his fiancée (and Elin's former friend), Laure, invite Elin and her new boyfriend to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, she thinks it will be the perfect occasion to finally confront her brother about the death of their sibling - whatever could possibly go wrong with that plan?! When they arrive, a major winter storm (complete with avalanches, of course) is looming, and Elin immediately feels on edge. When Laure goes missing almost immediately, and the guests start panicking, Elin's detective instincts start to kick in. Then the bodies start piling up - literally - and it's up to Elin to figure out who is doing the killing and why.
Up until that point, my interest was somewhat peaked, and I thought the plot could be setting up for an interesting dynamic, but then Elin finds the first body in the pool. The woman's arms are bound and several of her fingers have been cut off, but Elin still seems confused as to whether it is an accident or not. Only when she finds a sandbag near the body does the lightbulb seem to go off - "Any lingering doubts she has are gone: a sudden, sharp jag of realization hits in her gut. This isn't an accident. She's been killed. This is murder." Seriously?! Because there are so many accidental pool drownings where the victim has missing fingers, and her arms tied behind her back ... And that is just par for the course when it comes to the bumbling detective work Elin does from that point on. I still held on to hope though that there would be some wild twist that would make the seemingly random body count make sense, but no such luck. When all is finally revealed, it felt like an old episode of Scooby-Doo, where the "pesky kids" pull off the disguise and have that jinkies! moment of fake shock at the villain's identity. It was just as corny, as the killer and the motive were weak and just not believable at all. Oh, and then there's an epilogue! I almost forgot to mention that - WTF was that about? If that was intended to be a tease for a sequel, count me out!
Overall, a lame plot, bad characters, and a tired setting made this a 2-star read for me. Many times I end a less-than-stellar review by saying "it might just be me;" but with this one I'm pretty confident stating it's not just me - this just isn't a great book.
Grab some popcorn, because I've got quite a bit to say.
I usually avoid all the hyped-up books but every once in awhile I'll give one a go. Sadly, this book proves why I avoid them in the first place.
Elin is supposed to be a detective, but she is also mega-traumatized. Things like snow, mountains, trees, people looking at her, people talking to her, glass windows, pools, etc. send her into a near panic attack. When she's not about to have a panic attack she is worried about what people think about her, worried about people lying to her, getting headaches, or getting sick from ordinary objects.
The glass. Once again, it overwhelms her.
Nausea sweeps over her. The thick slices of sausage are slick with oil, tiny orbs of white fat studding the interior.
(The horror of the sausage happens when her boyfriend is simply trying to talk to her at breakfast. Apparently listening to him and looking at sausage was too much to handle. And yes, this type of description is throughout the entire story. At one point making a cup of coffee is described in such intricate detail that I thought surely it must be poisoned or something, but nope, it was just a cup of coffee. She also mentioned the eczema on Isaac’s eye at least three times. I love reading about people scratching eczema on their eyelids. It’s so great.)
Do you want to know why she's so incredibly traumatized and can't seem to handle even looking at breakfast foods? It's not because she was nearly murdered by some evil ne’er-do-well a year ago, or because her mother died six months ago, nope, it's because over 20 years ago her younger brother fell, hit his head, and died. She's been haunted by it her entire life.
Now Elin has somehow got it into her head that her older brother, Isaac, murdered her younger brother. This is supported by random facts thrown in about temper tantrums and cruel memories about Isaac. But there are also memories of him holding Elin's hand at night when she was scared. Even though Elin hasn't seen him in 10 years she thinks he's totally evil.
So now, to bridge gaps, Isaac's invited Elin and her boyfriend Will, to his fancy engagement party at an elite, remote hotel in the mountains. Elin decides to go because she's going to do it, she's going to confront him so she can once and for all stop thinking about her younger brother's death. (This all makes total sense, perfect timing, Elin.)
Now, I have to interject here that the first 20% or so of the book wasn't too bad. The setting is awesome and the story was appropriately creepy. But alas, it just went downhill from there. Mostly due to the characters being ridiculously unbelievable.
It doesn't take long for people to start disappearing and dying. The day after Elin arrives (and can barely even look at her brother), Isaac's fiancé disappears. Laure is just completely gone but no one seems to really be concerned but Isaac and Elin. Will tells Elin not to even think about it. (Sometimes he seems really wise and kind, other times, he's kind of a selfish jerk. You never know which version you'll get.)
Elin tries to forget about Laure disappearing (because it's totally normal to disappear before your engagement party and not take any of your personal belongings) but in the meantime she senses someone watching her and then she is mysteriously shoved into the pool. (It's a plunge pool, though why that is important I don't know. Elin hasn't "seen one in years.") It makes Will mad when this happens because he thinks that Elin is lying just to create drama. (Enter jerk Will.)
It's no big surprise when the hotel has to be evacuated because of the weather and the last busload gets left behind due to an avalanche. And then, of course, a body appears in the pool. It's not Laure, but one of the maids, who people didn't even know was missing. The body is missing three fingers, shows signs of restraint, and is wearing a grotesque mask. Elin sees it and wonders how this horrible "accident" could've happened. Later she notices a sandbag in the pool and *GASP* realizes that this must be MURDER. Dum dum dum!
(It's at this point we're really clued in to what a "smart cookie" Elin is.)
Elin starts investigating. Her idea of investigating is to ignore all the most obvious routes (like the video surveillance) and after she talks to anyone she thinks "hmmm, what are they hiding from me." Literally, in italics after every conversation it would show Elin's thoughts and it was always, "What did that look mean? They must be hiding something."
Once she finally thinks to check, most of the security videos have been wiped, but she does discover it was actually Laure that pushed her in the pool. Nobody seems to really care about this. I guess it's no big when a woman disappears and then reappears to push someone into a (plunge) pool.
Lots of other bad investigating takes place. I'm pretty sure anyone who's seen a couple of episodes of NCIS could've done better. Finally Elin gets a text from Laure telling her to meet her in the pent suite. At this point Elin suspects Laure, but she still thinks it's a great idea to go meet her alone, without telling anyone, without a weapon of any kind. (As I mentioned, "smort!")
Obviously it's a setup. Laure is dead and the killer nearly murders Elin. But that doesn't stop her from prancing off a SECOND time a couple chapters later to confront the killer, by herself, without telling anyone, without a weapon. (Have I mentioned how “brilliant” Elin is yet?)
Oh! In case you're wondering about the random subplot of her brother Sam....turns out it was actually Elin that witnessed the whole thing and was unable to help, so she blocked it out and blamed the whole thing on Isaac. Why did we need this subplot? I don't really know. Maybe to have a reason for Elin acting like a complete basket case?
Elin then proceeds to accuse everyone of being the murderer. It goes something like "you're the murderer." "No wait, you're the murderer." "Just kidding, it's definitely you!" She's wrong on all counts. Next she proceeds to expertly follow a trail of Hansel-and-Gretel-like nail polish flakes to a secret tunnel where she discovers....the murderer has been murdered! She has a partner! GASP!
I will say this, I never could've predicted the motive. Why? Because it was so convoluted and ridiculous! The killer ends up being Celise Caron, the owner's sister. She's mad at her bro, the owner, for not admitting that his friend raped her when she was young. So now she's killed the friend, (the first murder) and has to keep killing until she's caught so she can explain what her brother did to her and he can be punished. (Seems like a "smart" plan, the perfect villain for our "smart" detective.) Celise also decided to rope an employee into the murdering madness because this employee's long dead, many generations past, relative was experimented on at the old sanatorium. (I'm pretty sure I guffawed out loud at this part. Maybe we should all start avenging our great-great-great-aunts/uncles/grandparents/etc.)
Oh! On that note, Elin doesn't even think to look into the sanatorium's past until the very end, even though the victims are wearing gas masks, their fingers are displayed in the same cases used to display are other old artifacts, and there are bracelets with numbers on them. (Obviously patient numbers. That was apparent from the first second.)
Why did they chop off three fingers of each victim and display them in a box? Who knows? It was never explained.
Why did everyone ignore the fact that Laure pushed Elin into the pool? Well, because, according to the epilogue, it was actually some creepy stalker guy! There's going to be a sequel! Why did Elin think it was Laure and not realize it was creepy stalker guy? Add that to the many mysteries of this book.
I do understand behind every book is an author who worked really hard. I think in this case her editors wildly let her down. Though, it seems like she'll probably make a lot of money on this one, so I guess it doesn't really matter.
In conclusion, this is one of the most ridiculous books I've ever read and I cannot recommend it to anyone. I honestly kept reading because it was like a train wreck I couldn't turn away from. I had to see what preposterous thing would happen next.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Elin Warner, a police detective on leave, is traveling to a new hotel to celebrate the engagement of her brother. However, things don't go quite as planned, and Elin finds herself investigating a crime. What is going on at this hotel? Can Elin get answers to what happened to her in the past?
First of all, there have been a tremendous amount of negative reviews on this book. To be clear, I completely understand where they are coming from. The method that I used to read this book is called immersion reading. It is a technique where you listen to the audiobook, but I also follow along in a physical copy. I would pause the book, highlight, and I also took notes of who most of the characters were. There are A LOT of characters in this book, and it bops from one set of characters to the next at times so I can definitely see how this book would be a royal mess if I was just trying to listen to this book while driving to work for 20 minutes and then 5 minutes as I pop into the grocery store.
However, for me, I loved this book! It was extremely page turning. It has a lot of suspense. The chapters were short but they always seemed to leave me wanting more. I also really liked the ending. There were a few portions of the book that didn't make sense like why wouldn't Elin take her boyfriend and her brother as back up when she is investigating?
Overall, I thought that this book was really well done and very enjoyable. However, I would not suggest just listening to the audiobook alone (unless you are in a position to take some notes and/or stop and rewind (is that still a thing?) at leisure).
2023 Reading Schedule Jan Alice in Wonderland Feb Notes from a Small Island Mar Cloud Atlas Apr On the Road May The Color Purple Jun Bleak House Jul Bridget Jones’s Diary Aug Anna Karenina Sep The Secret History Oct Brave New World Nov A Confederacy of Dunces Dec The Count of Monte Cristo
I know I reviewed the damn thing low because star because this beautiful cover should have been a horror book. Don’t know what else I says. Gr took my little review and star rating away!! I’m seeing that more lately and that’s bullshit! Well, now I have a shelve for star ratings so keep it up GR
I am actually mad at all of the book review sites (looking at you crime reads) that said this was the best book of the week/month/year etc. Also, the many reviewers here who clearly read only the press materials and not the book. First, it suffers from a deadly case of telling instead of showing. The narration makes the story so slow and plodding it felt like wading through a 6ft snowfall in the forest.
I am willing to suspend a lot of belief for a novel, but there are so many many absurd things going on here that it ends up being sloppy rather than scary. Like, the police are on site investigating a murder and someone goes missing. Not a single person tells the police, until after they have left the property. There's a random page and a half epilogue that HAS NOTHING TO DO with anything you have just read. The "cop" who takes on the investigation suffers from a dizzying case of ailments including panic attacks, fear of water, etc...how did they ever pass the tests to become a police officer?
There is next to no atmosphere. The setting is this HUGE hotel but nearly all of the action takes place in two guest rooms, a dining room and the spa. That's 4 rooms. There are endless mentions that it is snowing and the hotel is modern. You never get a sense of real people in a real place. As many folks go missing or bodies show up, people are like "let's go swimming" showing no real concern and then in the next paragraph they are like, "we'd better get out of here as soon as we can, but first I need to do these 300 things that will obviously make me not be able to leave in time."
I wanted to give up throughout reading this, but kept going because so many people said it was an amazing fast-paced read. I ended up skimming almost the entire last half of the novel looking for anything that would suck me back into the story. Nada, zilch, a huge bummer.
I should have known when the publisher put a quote from known liar A.J. Finn on the cover that this was one to steer clear of. It's no surprise his quote calling this a gothic thriller is not true, as there is nothing at all gothic happening here.
"The Sanatorium" by Sarah Pearse was 'Reese's Book Club' February 2021 selection!
A turn-of-the-century abandoned sanatorium, built high in the Swiss Alps and surrounded by forest, has been renovated into a 5 star 'minimalist' hotel. It's also the destination for an engagement celebration for Elin Warner's estranged brother Isaac and his fiancée Laure.
When Elin and her boyfriend Will arrive at the hotel, a major storm is brewing. Elin feels edgy and nervous as she looks around. When they wake-up the next morning it is discovered that newly engaged Laure has gone missing.
With the worsening storm, road closures and isolation, panic and a claustrophobic feel begins to set in. Elin calls upon her skills as a police detective to begin an investigation on her own to help locate Laure. Can she solve Laure's disappearance on her own? Is anyone safe now in this remote location?
This is a story that began strong for me with the atmospheric setting and creepy vibes from the questionable history of the long closed sanatorium. There is a definite horror feel to this story with remnants of old equipment and devices used on patients at the sanatorium displayed throughout the hotel. How chilling is that?
However, midway through this story it starts to fall short, especially when Elin begins to question what she discovers, makes poor decisions and crazy assumptions that don't make sense. This main character definitely has some issues!
Most characters were under-developed, uninteresting or unlikable so I had trouble connecting with any of them.
Narrator, Elizabeth Knowelden did a fine job with her voicing skills through the audiobook. However, the abundance of very short chapters gave a clipped and rushed feel to the narrative. This book just wasn't for me.
Lastly, I'm all for repurposing and that includes real estate. But, converting a sanatorium into a high-end hotel? Would you sleep there?
2.5 stars —“The Sanatorium” by Sarah Pearse is a book I have wanted to read ever since I first read a summary of it. I guess I should have looked at its Goodreads’ rating before I invested so much time reading it. “The Sanatorium” is similar to both Shari Lapena’s “An Unwanted Guest” and “One by One” by Ruth Ware, but the story ends up going so far off the rails into the land of “how can the author expect the reader to believe this” that I stopped enjoying it about half way through. The book begins with Elin’s arrival at a luxury hotel that used to be a sanatorium in the early 20th century. She is there to meet her brother Isaac and his fiancé (who used to be a good friend of Elin’’s). Her arrival coincides with the murders of various staff members and guests at the hotel by a strange masked figure by horrific means. Elin is also a disenchanted detective on an extended leave of absence that due to the weather and avalanches is forced to help solve the disappearances and murders at the hotel. I won’t spoil the plot but the author overreaches again and again to make certain characters suspects, to make Elin’s actions and reactions as a trained investigator ridiculous at best, and worst of all, making “evidence” magically appear in places that it would never be found (nail varnish under a carpet anyone). There were just too many plot holes to make this book one to recommend.
This was a tough one for me. On the one hand its a very atmospheric thriller with some great description and good dramatic tension. On the other its a not so brilliantly executed mystery with one of the most inept investigators I've ever seen who spends most of the book having her job mansplained to her by her incredibly horrible brother and significant other.
Elin was a rising star in the London police before a botched investigation left her with PTSD and the fear that she might never be able to work again. When her estranged brother invites her and her boyfriend to his fiancees new ski lodge in the Swiss Alps she hopes that this may be the chance to come to terms not just with her fears but with a tragedy from her past. Then people start dying and an avalanche leaves the lodge cut off from everyone, trapped with a murderer enacting a terrifying revenge.
The setting really is marvelous. The hotel is a remodeled sanatorium that treated TB patients hundreds of years ago and the super sensitive Elin finds the entire place sterile and horribly frightening. Author Sarah Pearse's descriptions are excellent, much of my initial delighted fear was invoked entirely on the images she conjured in my head of the stark mountains, endless snow and this huge, strange building echoing with horrifying memories of death and pain.
What I had a hard time with was the notion that Elin was ever a competent enough cop to rise so far in the ranks because frankly she's utterly awful at her job. The blind blundering around she does in the course of her investigation as the body count continues to rise and time runs out is truly staggering.
The worst thing though is the way men and women are portrayed. I am well aware how colored my reading life has become these days. I don't know if its good or bad or simply inevitable to see everything I read through the eyes of a woman in 2020. Every single time a man explains a woman's job to her, hits on her with thinly veiled harassing language and sexual aggression, does something "for her own good" or treats her as anything less than an equal I just cringe. And then I get kind of angry.
Both the male characters in this book are all kinds of awful. Elin's boyfriend is the poster boy for "a nice guy." On the outside he's the perfect supportive boyfriend. Kind, loving and attentive and sympathetic to his girlfriend's issues, willing to wait for her to sort herself out. But it doesn't take long for him to reveal himself as a pandering douche who belittles the severe trauma Elin's been through (someone tried to kill her AND her mother just fucking died) as something she just needs to get over already, keeps remarking on how "changed" she is and how much he wishes she'd go back to the way she was, repeatedly questions her ability to do the job she's trained to do to the point of demanding he be allowed to do it for her (he's an architect or something) and demanding that she commit to moving in with him or they'll break up. Its infuriating every time they interact particularly because almost all their scenes involve Elin apologizing for being victimized in horrible ways.
Her brother is a straight up sociopath who spent most of their childhood abusing her and her younger brother before abandoning Elin without a word and leaving her to care for their mother as she slowly died from cancer, he couldn't be bothered to come to the funeral giving the excuse that he couldn't get off work. He's manipulative and horribly verbally abusive from the moment he joins the story and treats Elin like absolute crap. He's literally entirely unlikable. But rather than have him ever acknowledge any of his past actions or his general rottenness as a human being instead we're told that its really Elin who's just been misjudging everything he's ever done and really she's to blame for everything. Its awful but its also totally nonsensical because we've literally been seeing him be a horrible human being for the whole book. There's nothing to misjudge or misinterpret!
The mystery itself is kind of eh. Its not necessarily bad its just kind of all out of left field and one of those stories where the reader has no way to make any connections and the solution or reason isn't really arrived at, it just kind of happens.
So a pretty solid premise and setting ends up getting squashed under the weight of awful characters and a pretty hapless detective. Bummer.
I was so excited to read this book, but it was a total letdown. The whole Sanatorium vibes sounded so intriguing, and I thought it was going to be amazing. I don’t get the hype around this one. It was just blah. The characters, the storyline was all lacking. This had potential to be great, but it totally fell flat! The cover is beautiful, but sadly that’s all this book has going for it.
At an isolated hotel high in the Swiss Alps, cut off by bad weather and avalanches, a woman is murdered in a bizarre manner and another woman is missing. With the police unable to get to the hotel, guest Elin Warner, a detective currently on extended leave from the British police, has no choice but to start the investigation and liase with Swiss Police.
Elin and her boyfriend Will have arrived at the newly opened hotel to celebrate the engagement of her estranged brother Isaac to Laure, an old childhood friend, now an assistant manager at the hotel. Originally a TB sanatorium before the advent of antibiotics, the building has been converted into a fashionable hotel by architects Lucas Caron and Daniel Lemaitre. Daniel disappeared mysteriously before the renovations started but the building went ahead and is under the management of Lucas and his sister Cécile. In keeping with the original use of the building, Lucas has made a feature of some of the medical devices used for treating the patients in exhibits around the hotel.
Sarah Pearse has utilised the isolated location and harsh weather to develop a very suspenseful and atmospheric murder mystery. The description of the murderer is indeed the stuff of nightmares, as is the strange mutilation of the victims. Elin's leave is due to PTSD suffered after her last case went wrong but she is also mourning the death of her mother who she nursed at home. Her unresolved grief at the death of her younger brother during childhood has also resurfaced now that she's meeting Isaac and Laure again. She’s really not in a good place, suffering from panic attacks and initially terrified at being the only detective on site. As the case progresses, she grows in confidence and can't help but take control, but she also makes decisions that put herself and others at risk, begging the question of whether she should go back to policing. She’s a difficult character to connect with and her relationship with Will seems tenuous. Although he seems very patient and understanding he can’t seem to understand why she is not coping well. For me, the concentration on Elin’s insecurity and neuroses tended to overshadow the plot and the other characters. I was also not entirely convinced by the revelation of what the killer’s motives were and felt the ending could have been stronger. Nevertheless, this was a good debut with a very creepy isolated, location and suspenseful plot. 3.5★
With thanks to Netgalley and Random House UK for a copy to read
There’s a solid chance this is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t really care. It was literally 20 below and snowed for a solid 18 hours when I read this, so my disappointment is a pretty palpable thing. The story here is about a former sanatorium in the Alps which has been remodeled into a luxury hotel. Elin is supposed to be attending her brother’s engagement party, but bad weather and a little case of a dead body puts a damper on the celebration and with no ability for the police to make it to their location, she must brush off her detective skills despite currently being on leave.
I’m not going to waste much time on this – mainly because we are experiencing rolling blackouts where I live and I’ll have to murder someone myself if I type a bunch of words only to lose them. Okay, so in theory this should have been great. I mean just look at that cover. I will definitely buy this for my shelves when I see it in the bargain bins. The synopsis was everything that appealed to me too. So what went wrong? Well, to begin with, if you’ve ever seen this movie . . . .
The big reveal will come as no surprise.
And as far as the leading lady goes????
This entire book was filled with awesome (/sarcasm) decision making like . . . .
Or . . . .
The entire thing was pretty much just a mess for me. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>
EXCERPT: She closes her eyes and hears echoed threats.
'Only babies tell, and you're a baby.'
'Tell tell tit, your tongue will split.'
Her head is throbbing.
'Do that again and I'll kill you.'
ABOUT 'THE SANITORIUM': 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 . . .
MY THOUGHTS: An exciting read that left me breathless. It is spine-tingling and raised those little hairs on the back of my neck in places.
The Sanitorium is a stunning debut novel by Sarah Pearse that cleverly leaves the way open for a sequel. I can't wait!
It is an atmospheric, chilling, twisty read set during a blizzard in a hotel in the Swiss Alps. A modern locked room mystery that incorporates horrific historic murders with the present day ones. The setting is creepy in a modernistic minimalist way, incorporating old subterranean parts of the original Sanitorium that was converted into a luxury hotel.
The characters are magnificent and entirely plausible. I really didn't like Elin at the beginning, but as she developed and came into her own, she grew on me. She is uncomfortable in her own skin, prone to panic attacks, and on extended leave from the police force following something that went terribly wrong on her last case. Her brother Isaac, I didn't warm to at all, but I adored Will, Elin's 'boyfriend', and often felt miffed with Elin for the way she treated him. Isaac's girlfriend Laure, is a bit of a mystery. She and Elin were childhood friends whose relationship came to an abrupt end. She comes across as very self-confident, but there are secrets lurking there too. Elin and Isaac have grown apart over the years following their younger brother Sam's death and, despite being at the hotel to celebrate Isaac and Laure's engagement, there is a palpable tension between them.
There is also a tension between another brother and sister, Lucas and Cécile. Lucas owns the hotel, and his sister works for him. There is a history between Lucas and Laure.
So we have:
Complicated family relationships
Stunning scenery (obliterated by a blizzard, but)
A modern hotel built on a creepy past
No way in our out, so the murderer must still be there
A limited pool of suspects
I had no idea who was behind the murders, yet thinking back, the author has left a little trail of breadcrumbs for the reader to follow. I was too busy avidly flipping pages and devouring the words on them to pick up her occasional clues.
I loved this read. There was only one point, almost at the end, when my belief wavered a little, but only momentarily. I had a wonderful time reading The Sanitorium and, honestly, I could go back and read it all over again.
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.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Bantam Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Sanitorium by Sarah Pearse for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
Who the heck thinks turning and old tuberculosis sanatorium with a horrid past into a luxury hotel is a good idea??? Hands? Bueller? They even decorate it with the old sanatorium torture devices….wild! This book had a great summary and was part of the Reese recommendation so I gave it a go. It isn’t really a three star, but it isn’t a four star read for me either.
The characters were just ok, the plot was lacking in more ‘Gotcha’ moments and trying to figure out who the killer is was futile. The bodies add up in this book, but it was lacking in shock value and reader sleuthing abilities. Oh well, on to the next one right fellow ‘tsundoku’s’?
I liked the concept, but the execution was flawed. The main character isn't very likeable, the pacing is very slow at the start, and the author uses too much misdirection which only serves to draw out the story and make the climax fall flat.
Had I not been reading this for a book club at work, I would have given up on it.
A Mystery that Garnered a lot of Hype on Social Media that left a lot to be desired.
Just call this a case of the Ho-Hums. All the expectations I had were dashed fairly early on, and sadly I kept going even though it was clear this was failing to deliver.
A Sanatorium converted into a Hotel? My questions are as follows:
WHY would anyone EVER think that’s a good idea?; and Why would anyone ever WANT to stay there? As if!
A premise I admittedly failed to comprehend, yet continued to read anyway. Probably not my best decision.
When Elin and her boyfriend Will arrive at the hotel for her estranged brother Issac’s engagement to her former friend Laure, the hairs on the back of Elin’s neck immediately stand up. A tell-tale sign she should have listened to.
Of course, it gets worse from there, once the bodies turn up. Elin, a former Detective on leave from the department investigates. Cut off from everyone due to both a ridiculous snowstorm and avalanche, things go from bad to worse.
Nothing like being locked in a Sanatorium with a crazed killer over the course of a few days to shake things up. I’m just glad this was fiction!
Thank you to my local library for loaning me a copy of the audiobook.
This was a pretty good thriller. 😏 The masked mystery spooky bits made for a great read for this time of year. 👻 The ending left me feeling a bit... yeah... mmm... okay?.... I guess it's a series, but I'm okay with just reading it as a stand alone. ✌
This should have been 5 stars, so many chilling and gruesome elements were present, but it just never delivers. The ending is a complete "this is how I did it" dump, which really sucks. Then there is another reveal (was it a twist?) on a train at the very, very end and I didn't even understand it!! If you did, feel free to explain in the comments. Quite a let down.
The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse is a creepy thrilling locked door mystery about a sanatorium turned into a hotel. After an avalanche, someone turns up missing. People are killed, so someone in the hotel has to be the killer. Red herrings are dropped making different people seem guilty. I could not figure out who the killer was from this small group. When everything was revealed, everything made sense. Elin is a detective that has been on a prolonged leave who is celebrating her brother’s engagement at The Santorium. Elin’s other brother died when they were kids which leads her to believe her brother was involved. She goes on this trip hoping for answers. There is controversy around the hotel. The fact that the hotel used to be a sanatorium adds creepiness which makes the mystery more exciting. I didn’t see the ending coming and the epilogue made me question everything. I can’t wait to read Elin’s next story coming in 2022. I recommend The Sanatorium for fans of locked door mysteries.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Elizabeth Knowlden and thought her narration was perfect for this book.
Thank you Penguin Random House Audio for The Sanatorium.
3.5 stars: “The Sanatorium” by Sarah Pearse is Reese Witherspoon’s February book choice. I chose to listen to the audio, narrated by Elizabeth Knowelden. Reese proclaims that it’s “an eerie, atmospheric novel” which, to me, seemed like a perfect audio. I am happy with my choice. Knowelden’s command of French provided the story with a European feel which is perfect since the story takes place in the Swiss Alps. I’m assuming there is French written in the novel, since Knowelden speaks French and speaks in character with a French accent.
The setting is a new minimalist hotel, nestled in the Swiss Alps. Previously, the building was a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. It’s a creepy looking building that has garnered many rumors because of the questionable techniques used on TB patients. The protagonist, Elin Warner is invited there to celebrate her brother Isaac’s recent engagement. Of course, Elin and her boyfriend arrive during a nasty snow-storm. The creep factor is high from the beginning.
Adding to the creep factor is that Elin is a bit estranged from her brother. He didn’t attend their mother’s funeral because he said he was too busy. Plus, Elin feels her brother Isaac had involvement in her other brother’s death. Elin has unresolved issues in confronting Isaac about the details surrounding her younger brother’s death.
Isaac’s fiancé mysteriously goes missing the day after Elin’s arrival. Due to the snow-storm, roads are closed thereby isolating the hotel from civilization. A body is found near the hotel increasing the spook factor. Because of the storm, no authorities will be arriving to investigate the missing fiancé and the dead body.
Elin is a detective on leave for reasons not immediately provided to the reader, thereby allowing the reader to be a bit suspect of Elin’s reasonings. Suspense builds when another person goes missing. Meanwhile, the reader learns of procedures done to tuberculosis patients which adds more to sinister feel of the hotel.
Elin tries to sleuth her way in finding her brother’s fiancé and solving the mysteries of the dead body and the other missing person. Her sleuthing results in disturbing information of what historically occurred at the sanatorium.
This is a dark eerie story, full of twists and turns. It’s a great suspense story that captures your imagination. As I listened, I could “see” it happening as a black and white movie with organ music playing in the background. Reese always does a good job in finding satisfying reads.
The Sanatorium has my name written all over it. Another one of my most anticipated reads of the year, another 5 ⭐️ ! Do I have a good eye or what? It combines all my favorite ingredients: remote location (the Swiss Alps), characters with some kind of past trauma, a blizzard that isolates them and several mysterious (and pretty disturbing) deaths. What's not to like?
It was such an exciting read. After finishing the prologue I knew I was in for a treat. Those first few pages managed to give me goosebumps, and that mask image is gonna be on my brain for a really long time. So creepy!
Elin is a detective on a leave of absence suffering PTSD after some traumatic events at work and also dragging some family issues. At first it took me some time to warm to her. Her obsession trying to get some answers about her family tragedy 20 years after the fact wars a bit hard to understand. Why so long? But as the story progressed I got to really root for her. She needed to get to the truth of the murders just to prove herself that the old Elin was still alive inside her.
The sanatorium turned into a luxury hotel was another character itself, and even a scarier one than the villain. I'm all for minimalism (much to my boyfriend's regret), but that hotel still gave really unsettling hospital vibes! Let's take a dip in those pools...Eehhh, no, thank you!
There were several twists that, as it happened to Elin, threw my theories away several times, and when all was revealed, the thing that really gave me chills was learning about the building's previous history.
With a really claustrophobic and sinister atmosphere, The Sanatorium is a truly stunning debut. Today I learnt from the author that the sequel will come out March 2022 and I'm already counting the days.
5 ⭐️ atmospheric read! Take a trip with Elin to the Swiss Alps for her estranged brother’s engagement celebration, staying at a 5 star hotel, converted from an old Sanatorium.
What could go wrong?? Well, Elin has some severe anxiety issues, is a Police detective on leave, is wanting to confront her brother over their estrangement and besides all of that, there is a killer on the loose and he is picking people off one by one. Oh also, they get completely isolated by weather/avalanches and Elin is handling the scene.. so lots could go wrong and I loved it, couldn’t put this one down!
It helped that I read this while storms raged outside blanketing us with feet of snow and branches banged on the windows. This book hit a lot of my terror points and I just wanted to sit on Elin’s feet and make her stop investigating!!
Not sure if I was being clueless but I literally went through every character trying to figure out the killer and was constantly wrong, again love that!
Side note, I grew up with a Sanatorium behind my house that had been turned into a hospital, it was never scary but was celebrated for it’s work in saving so many lives so I instead pictured this as the old Psychiatric hospital in my area, if they built a 10 star hotel in its place, I would not stay, let alone be part of a locked room mystery there!
I +++ recommend that if you love gothic, atmospheric mysteries with a touch of horror, grab this up as fast as you can and see what happened at the Sanatorium🏫
Le Sommet is a remote hotel in the Swiss Alps that used to be a tuberculosis sanatorium, and it has a troubled history. Elin visits Le Sommet for an engagement party for her brother Issac. Elin is a detective in the UK, but she is on leave after having experienced a traumatic event from solving a case. On top of that, Elin and Issac’s little brother died from an accident when they were young, and Elin is still searching for answers.
When Isaac’s fiancé Laure suddenly goes missing it is the perfect storm, literally and figuratively. With snow coming down hard and an avalanches blocking the road, they are stuck at the isolated hotel without the police to help. Brutal and upsetting things start happening, but who could be behind this and why? Is it because of drama between hotel staff or the sanatorium’s hidden history? Elin must decide if she wants to help investigate the incidents.
The novel is suspenseful. It takes many twists and turns that keep you guessing. Multiple times, the author leads you in one way only to take a different direction. With so much build up to the mystery, the reveal, though unexpected, felt a bit clunky and unsatisfying. Most of the loose ends were tied up, and the author tries to set up the second book.
There are a variety of characters each with questionable pasts; however, at times their history and traits don’t match their actions. The main character, Elin, has frightening flashbacks from her previous case, but she willingly puts herself in dangerous situations without fear among a brutal killer. The author would develop an idea about a character in the beginning only to drop that idea or them in the second half. I thought that the characters could have been better developed.
The whole novel is very creepy and sinister. The murders are brutal and graphic. The sanatorium’s history was one of the most disturbing parts along with the use of past medical equipment. The hotel has a sterile and clinical feel. It is stark in contrast to the snowy mountainous setting.
Even though the some areas could have been smoother and the ending stronger, I still thought this was a unique and intense mystery. The plot wasn’t very polished, but nevertheless it was enjoyable to read. Be prepared, as the book gives you and an outright eerie and unsettling feel!
Disappointed but not surprised :/ This book has a great premise and an amazing setting: a sanatorium has been converted into a luxury hotel in the Swiss mountains and a serial killer has made it their home. Awesome, creepy, interesting!
But, ultimately, not very good. The writing is decent, although a lot of the dialogue felt very stilted — one person would just be the stand-in for the audience and do nothing but ask questions while the other answers them, sometimes glancing away or doing something shifty to give a “clue”.
The ending is simply baffling and the murderer and their motive is really, really stupid. I’ve seen better villains in Scooby-Doo. It honestly sounds like one of the more silly episodes of Criminal Minds, where you finish it and go “well that was a whole lot of … something”.
The characters were so bland and boring. Elin is so ridiculously stupid and being in her headspace depressed me: she has no personality aside from feeling “off” about the hotel and being truly inept at her job, making “realisations” that the audience already assumed was common knowledge. omg Elin u poor thing, it must be hard having 0 brain cells.
And Will is toxic and an asshole and the worst boyfriend in the world who mansplains his own girlfriend’s job to her for like 300 pages.
So while the atmosphere and spooky vibes were pretty spot on and I was intrigued for most of the book, it still fails as a mystery, jamming in as many “twists” as it possibly can with such a bland, boring cast of replaceable characters. Also, the epilogue makes it seem like this is going to be a series which is a no from me darling.
2/5 stars I was hoping for a Midsommar ending and I am frankly disappointed
The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse has all the elements of a great story. It was creepy, in a remote location, there are family tensions and people going missing. Throw in a massive snow storm to top it all off.... I could not get enough. No surprise really when it was named as Reese’s book of the month for February. If you like locked room mysteries filled with suspense then this is the book for you.
Elon Warner is a police detective from the UK. She is currently on leave due to suffering PTSD after a case went very wrong. Along with her boyfriend Will, they travel to the Swiss Alps to stay in an exclusive hotel in the mountains. This is no ordinary hotel. It was converted from an abandoned sanatorium where patients were treated for TB in the past. It has an unsettling feel to it and Elin feels uncomfortable from the minute they arrive.
Thy are there to celebrate the engagement of her estranged brother Isaac. But things take a turn for the worse when a body is found on the hotel grounds, in the middle of a storm. They find themselves cut off and Elin needs to use her skills to try to find the killer before they strike again.
It is a dark and eerie novel, full of twists and turns. I loved Elin and her inner voice, could she trust herself, what did she really want? I was completely lost in the story and read this over a weekend.
Thanks so much to Penguin Books Australia for sending a me this book to read.
loved this beautifully atmospheric psychological thriller- it is often intensely creepy with an excellent central mystery element and a deeply chilly feel to it.
This is one of those novels you fall into and read in great big chunks, you know the kind, the “just one more chapter” thing that keeps you up into the early hours.
The characters are engaging, the setting is described pitch perfectly, it is unpredictable, edgy and clever. Proving that there is life in the psychological thriller genre and that it can still be done with style and genuine flair, I am more than happy to highly recommend it. If you have a must read of 2021 list pop this on it.
Elin a detective and her boyfriend Will have been invited to her brother Isaac’s engagement party. Isaac who is marrying Laura is holding the party at the luxury newly refurbished hotel Le Sommet. The hotel is set high in the alps and used to be a sanatorium.
The journey to the hotel is hard as there has been heavy snow and a threat of an avalanche.
Laura goes missing and a body is discovered. Elin starts to investigate what has happened. No one can travel to or from the hotel and everyone seems to be keeping secrets.
I loved the creepy hotel and its eerie surroundings. There are plenty of twists that keep you guessing until the end.
Will definitely look out for this author again.
Thank you to Netgalley for my copy in exchange for a review.