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…

From Penguin Random House

Sarah Pearse’s debut detective novel has serious flaws. While the story is atmospheric and icy, everything else falls flat. Motivations, not only those of the killer, but also those of Elin, are murky at best. Characters explore a landscape that had so much potential for creepiness, but I almost can’t even visualize the sanatorium.

All praise of this novel says it is eerie and full of setting, but I think this only rings true of the winter storm that surrounds the cast of characters throughout the novel. The sanatorium itself actually isn’t atmospheric at all. While there was so much potential to meld the winter storm with the feeling of the sanatorium, it doesn’t make it there. There is so much missed creepiness potential. I wasn’t afraid of a murderous serial killer in a sanatorium snowed in with victims who have no help from the outside. At all. That is a disappointment.

CHILLING! The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse is an eerie, atmospheric novel that had me completely on the edge of my seat. Let’s set the mood. . . . You’re in a remote location—at a hotel—and there’s a snowstorm. The winds are howling, the snow is pelting in every direction, there’s a missing person, and a dead body shows up!

– Reese Witherspoon

Characters are whiny, unwilling to take ownership of their actions, and make decisions that are not supported by our previous knowledge of the character. It is very clear this massive 400 page tome is Pearse’s first novel. It could have done with some editing.

Here are my feelings for the first third of the novel: huh, this is super slow. I like the wintery atmosphere and the mystery of who the killer is, but it sure is dragging. Why do I care about Elin’s weird proclivities? All of these characters are so one-dimensional. Should I give up on this? I can’t not finish this one — everyone says it’s so good! I’ll keep pushing on.

The middle section of the novel: It is getting juicy. The narrative is picking up and more people are dying. I NEED to know who the killer is!

The last third of the novel: Come on. This book is so long. Just tell me who it is already! Red herring after red herring that doesn’t cause interest from the reader; it causes frustration. The reveal: really? And the killer’s motivation: REALLY? I get that we are in modern times, but why is this so preachy? As I closed the last page, I wished I’d never picked it up.

I give this one a 2. I did find some enjoyment out of the wintery atmosphere and the chase to find out who the murderer was, but overall this was a very disappointing experience. Sometimes these hyped up novels just don’t live up to it. Even if everyone is reading it, it still might not be good.

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)