Cover detail of The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

Do you have Pantomimes where you are? I ask this because this weekend saw our village Pantomime 'Jack and the Beanstalk' and I got to thinking about it during the performance. Panto is a strange thing when you think about it. There is usually a dame played by a man, the principal boy is usually played by a woman, and the love interest is also played by a woman. There are the standard phrases that we all know by heart, but can never remember where we learnt them "Oh no you didn't/Oh yes you did'. We boo and hiss certain characters and there is usually a song and routine at the end of the show where audience members are invited up to perform. I cna't quite work out if it is a very British thing, or if other countries have their own versions.

Read my review of Midnight in Everwood.

Either way it was great fun and felt like a lovely start to the Christmas festivities. Moving to today's review and I am almost caught up on my reviews now, I've gone for a real psychological thriller, one that will make you second guess every character in the book.

The Plot

A beautiful, eerie hotel in the Swiss Alps, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium is the last place Detective Elin Warner wants to be. But her estranged brother has invited her there for his engagement party, and she feels she had no choice but to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge and things only get worse when they wake the next morning to find her brother's fiance is missing. With access to the hotel cut off, the guests begin to panic.

My Thoughts

At the very start of the novel, this very seriously almost became a contender for my Halloween read. Such is the writing and imagery which resembles the stuff of nightmares. A masked figure who suddenly comes out of nowhere and knows their way round a surgical chair, its the stuff of nightmares. In fact there is a real sense of claustrophobia throughout this novel. The award-winning hotel, an architectural delight is challenging, stark and uncomfortable.

A whole cluster of characters kindly line up to become suspects in the disappearance of Elin's future sister-in-law. All are cagey, suspicious and prowling. All have secrets that is is left to Elin to uncover.

Indeed Elin herself is a challenging character. Difficult to be with, relentless in her quest for the truth, even putting this above the needs of her family. her relationships are difficult, especially that with her family following a childhood bereavement. She has a strained relationship with her difficult brother. Their relationship is almost that of a stranger.

And then the avalanche comes. Suddenly all of that tension bubbling under comes to the front, and all the while that terrifying masked figure lurks in the background.

This is a well-written and slightly terrifying novel deserving of all the hype.