The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

Bantam Press | 2021 (18 February) | 400p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Sanatorium by Sarah PearseLe Sommet is a five-star luxury hotel, high in the Swiss Alps. It has an imposing presence but its history is sinister. It was built as a sanatorium for TB patients and the hotel was designed to retain some of its features from these days. It’s the last place that Elin Warner wants to be. She is on long-term leave from her job as a detective, suffering from PTSD as well as grief for her mother and she continues to be deeply troubled by the death of her brother Sam when they were children. But she and her boyfriend Will have been invited to Le Sommet by her estranged brother Isaac who is celebrating his engagement to Laure, a manager at the hotel. Elin’s anxiety increases even more when a storm comes in and not everyone can be evacuated from Le Sommet in time. They are stranded. And that’s when Laure goes missing. But soon Elin learns that Laure is not the first to vanish.

Over the last few months I have thoroughly enjoyed a run of wintry chillers and I was really excited to read The Sanatorium. It wasn’t long before this building terrified me. Just the idea of staying in such a place…. Sarah Pearse builds the atmosphere and tension so well, making Le Sommet a character in its own right and every bit as important as Elin, her boyfriend, Isaac and Laure, the owners of the hotel and its staff.

Elin is forced to play detective when a body is found, a role that comes naturally to her, but she is out of her depth, buried by past and present crises in her life. This affects how she deals with the people around her, how she views them and how they regard her. It’s compelling. It’s as if Elin has become a patient of this sanatorium, that she feels unable to trust anyone. As we learn more about Elin and Isaac’s past, it all becomes even more unsettling. The relationship of Le Sommet, and its past as a sanatorium, with the locals is an intriguing element.

The Sanatorium is such an entertaining read with a pleasingly complex mystery at its heart. But what I loved most of all is the wintriness of it all. Sarah Pearse captures well the power of the winter storm as well as the menace and creepiness of Le Sommet, which looms over it all.

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