The Sun Down Motel hooked me from the start. I loved it that first night of reading. But when I picked it up the second night, I was filled with dread. I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue. I chalked it up to being tired and read on. I’m glad I did because it’s an amazing book. But it is a tense book, absolutely gripping and nerve-wracking. I had a headache yesterday evening from clenching my jaw while reading this. I didn’t even realize I was doing it until I got the headache. It’s that kind of book.
In 1982, twenty year-old Viv goes missing in the middle of the night while working at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. Her purse is found in the motel office, her car in the parking lot. She’s never seen or heard from again. Her body is never found.
In 2017, Viv’s niece, Carly, drops out of college and moves to Fell to find out what happened to Viv. Carly’s mom recently died and Carly is feeling adrift. She loves true crime and has always felt a kinship to her missing aunt.
The book alternates between Viv in 1982 and Carly in 2017. We see their investigations in parallel. As Viv gets closer to identifying a serial killer, Carly gets closer to finding out what happened to Viv.
Then there’s the ghosts. Viv and Carly quickly realize the Sun Down Motel is haunted. Are the ghosts trying to help them or threaten them? Who were they in life and what do they want?
There are so many things I liked about this book. I found the serial killer part almost too scary, but the ghosts helped remind me it wasn’t real. While Viv and Carly take some risks that had me mentally screaming “NO!!!!”, their characters realized they needed to be more careful. Growth is good. The book constantly reminds the reader that the dead girls didn’t do anything wrong. The blame for their deaths is clearly placed on the killer’s shoulders. But it also reminds us that it could happen to any of us and that the world expects women to protect themselves. That’s what makes the book truly terrifying. I found the end very satisfying.