Horror and thriller books may be the hardest to write, with the author having to describe each moment through language rather than through sight. Fortunately, Sarah Pearse cuts right through this with her debut novel, The Sanatorium.
Pearse is a young writer who lives by the sea with her husband and two daughters. Always drawn to creepy and peculiar things, the writer has allowed the macabre to creep beautifully into her first release.
The narrative of her novel follows former detective Elin Warner as she reluctantly embarks on a journey to the Swiss Alps with her boyfriend, Will, to meet her brother for his engagement party.
The party takes place in a luxury hotel high up in the mountains, over 2,000 feet high. The unnerving thing is, that this stylish hotel used to be a sanatorium.
Just two days into the trip, Elin’s brother, Isaac, tells her his fiancée and her childhood friend is missing.
From then onwards, we follow the nervous and constantly panicking Elin as she tries to solve the case – with no police coming due to the snowy conditions, no official jurisdiction, and murders to solve.
The first 50 pages or so of this book are a little fast-paced as sentences are rather short, spurring the reader on rather quickly. There are also a few parts in these pages (and the book as a whole) where some things are slightly over-described.
Having said this, once you get past the first section, you can really see Pearse’s writing style – her ability to reveal things not through narration but through the characters.
Just when you are wondering what happened to someone or wonder what went on with a certain plot point, Pearse has a character ask about it or reveal something, and it is a brilliant way of telling this story.
The atmosphere of this book is excellent. The sharp, clear tone Pearse has set is brilliant, you only see what she wants you to see, mainly through the eyes of our main character, Elin.
The way in which Elin’s anger surfaces, due to issues with her brother and their past, works brilliantly as a source of information as when you are angry, you tend to tell more home truths – and that is exactly how Elin is written and it works so well.
The horror aspect is great also, as Pearse once again channels how someone should feel about a murder scene and strange happenings through Elin.
However, Elin does not react how a ‘normal’ person should due to her unbalanced mental state, but we still see her unique reaction and what should be the ‘normal’ reaction as Elin sometimes questions why she doesn’t feel melancholic, for example, as someone else might.
For a debut novel, it is brilliant. Sharp, clear descriptions, clever character development, especially with Elin, her boyfriend Will, and Isaac. The two main male characters are also written so well and that is one shining grace above others for this book.
Will is the grounded character, and Pearse makes sure you know this from the get-go. He is always trying to defuse the situation and keep Elin calm, despite him sometimes losing his cool. Isaac is also written extremely well, and he serves as almost the opposite to Will as he challenges Elin and essentially brings out the worst in her.
We can also say this for Pearse with confidence; she definitely knows how to write an ending.
Any fan of thrillers and anyone who wants to check out a new horror author, needs to pick up a copy of The Sanatorium. This book is a fantastic read, due to the unnerving tone, the intricate details and the wonderfully sinister imagery.
We were hooked on every twist and every reveal – as they were done beautifully.
The Sanatorium is out now!
Written by Melissa, who you can follow on Twitter @melissajournal
Four senior citizens getting together to solve a murder doesn’t seem like the racy thriller you’re after, but believe us, it really is.
Richard Osman, comedian and writer, surpasses himself and all expectations about crime books with The Thursday Murder Club, which was released in September 2020... to read more click HERE
Tagged in Book review