The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

Posted On 22 February 2021

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My Five Word TL:DR Review : My expectations were too high

TheSanatoriumThe Sanatorium was certainly not a bad story and in fact has some really great moments but at the same time I didn’t love this quite as much as I expected and I wonder if perhaps my expectations were ridiculously escalated for which I can only blame myself.  Still enjoyable though.

So, the premise for this one is really good. We have an excellent setting.  High on the mountains, bad weather looming, a former sanatorium converted into a 5* hotel and a meeting up of family and friends for a special occasion.  The hotel is only just opening and the pressure is intense.  A lot is at stake here and so when one of the party goes missing tensions run riot.  On top of the history with the place and the spooky feel there’s a good deal of history between some of the characters.

As the book starts there’s a great opening chapter which really sets the pulse racing.  We then jump forward a few months.  Elin is travelling to the hotel with her partner Will, they’re due to meet Elin’s brother Issac and his partner Laure to celebrate their recent engagement.  Unfortunately, Laure goes missing and this seems to be the catalyst for events.

Now the thing with this story is there’s a lot of history.  Both with the place and between the characters.  Elin and Issac’s young brother drowned in a tragic accident and his loss pushed the family apart.  Elin and Issac in particular have many issues unspoken between them and this has led to a build up in resentment.  Things fair little better between certain employees at the hotel and secrets are going to eventually spill forth. On top of that Elin and Will are struggling a little, Will is looking for commitment and Ellin is keeping him at arm’s length.and alongside Will exerting pressure on her Elin is also facing pressure from work.  She’s on an extended absence of leave following an incident and they’re keen for her to make a decision.  Elin is a detective who suffered a scary experience that has left her questioning her own judgement.

Then the story escalates, everyone needs to leave but a few remaining guests and staff are forced to remain behind when the road is blocked. Further avalanches threaten, and a dead body is discovered. The Swiss police can’t get to the hotel and Elin reluctantly steps in, without any real jurisdiction, to at least try to gain and preserve some semblance of order and the few snippets of evidence that can be found.

Okay, I didn’t dislike this.  It was an easy read and well written but I did have some issues.

After a rather quick start things do slow down considerably.  There are lots of different elements to discover about the characters and to some extent this slows things down a good deal in the first half while we take everything on board.  I didn’t really mind this build up in a lot of respects because it helps us get to know the characters a bit better and it would be difficult to care about all the outcomes without any sort of a connection.  However, in some respects I still found it difficult to connect, particularly with Elin and there’s an element of things constantly being ‘unspoken’ which I do find a little frustrating.

I did think that there was a good horror vibe going on and the former Sanatorium come hotel with it’s creepy backstory were interesting to read about.  Plus some of the scenes where the ‘baddie’ appears were definitely scary.  However, some of the tension was diluted somewhat by Elin acting like a headless chicken. Okay, that’s probably a little harsh.  She was trying her best at the same time as dealing with personal issues, but I felt that she walked heedlessly into situations that made me think she was auditioning for a short role in a horror movie.

My main criticism however has to be the eventual reveal which just didn’t sit right for me.  I don’t know why but I just didn’t buy it plus, there’s this slightly crazy ending that I didn’t really understand and had to go back and reread it – and I still don’t know what it signifies.  Now I realise that I’m probably being a little dense there so I hold my hands up.

Overall, this seriously wasn’t a bad read at all. In fact it was remarkably easy.  I just think I was expecting something slightly different.  I’m all for character depth but I think this one maybe needed less of the personal family drama going on at the same time as everything else, it felt like a lot to unload.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars.

23 Responses to “The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse”

  1. Ola G

    LOL at “she was auditioning for a short role in a horror movie” 😀 I think I’ll pass 😉

    • @lynnsbooks

      Haha – well, I could be in the minority with some of my issues, or maybe my expectations were unreasonable going in.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Tammy

    It’s too bad but sometimes the wrong ending can ruin a story. I wish you’d enjoyed this more, but on to the next one😁

    • @lynnsbooks

      Indeed – I know others are loving this but the ending just didn’t work for me.
      Lynn 😀

  3. sjhigbee

    A great review, Lynn – and I’m sorry you didn’t like this one more. Often a blindingly good beginning can’t be sustained – and this one clearly falls into that category. What a shame…

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah,I perhaps had too high expectations and the ending just didn’t work for me.
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        I think they are the most demanding books to write successfully – and therefore often don’t work, particularly at the end.

  4. Theresa Smith Writes

    Elin as a headless chicken is a really good way to put it!! 😂
    Yeah, that epilogue was completely confusing. I found an explanation of it over at Goodreads in the comments of a review. It’s a bit pointless, especially knowing ‘who’ that was now.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Ooh, I shall have to go and look for that review because I was really perplexed.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Greg

    I’ve been super curious of this one, and the creepiness has me really wanting to try it, but that ending sounds a bit iffy Hmm. Not crazy about ambiguous endings…

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, the ending spoiled it a little for me.and the epilogue just felt – well, unnecessary at best.
      Lynn 😀

  6. hannahmillsbooks

    I actually really enjoyed this book. Apart from the epilogue. I’ve pretty much decided to ignore it. But I do agree that Elin’s decision making was frustrating to say the least!

    • @lynnsbooks

      To be fair, I suspect I’m in the minority with this one. Just the ending and the actual motivations of the antagonist. And that epilogue – why? But, all that aside, there were some really good aspects and I particularly liked the horror vibe – I wish it had been taken further.
      Lynn 😀

  7. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Darn, I thought with bad weather looming and a creepy hotel, this one will be for sure a winner. I can totally understand how a bad reveal can spoil things though – so many promising thrillers have been brought down by a crappy ending for me, so I hear ya! Still, I’d like to give this one a try. I love the horror vibes!

    • @lynnsbooks

      The horror vibes are great and get even better as the story progresses. But the ending and the epilogue – can’t wait to see what you think in fact I’d love the chance to talk to someone without giving away spoilers. Hope you love it – I think I’m probably in the minority tbf or perhaps I went in with the wrong mindset or something.
      Lynn 😀

  8. pagesandtea

    I’m glad I’ve read your review before I read the book because the high expectations things would certainly hit me too I think as so much about this sounds amazing from the isolated and creepy location to the horror elements. Can’t resist that sort of book usually. I’ll probably wait and see if this appears on the library catalogue at some point.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it’s a shame about this one. Certain elements are really good and there’s an increasing horror vibe. I felt a few things were a little irritating along the way – but, I could forgive those because there were elements that explained them away but I just couldn’t buy the ending and I really didn’t understand the epilogue. I hope you get a chance to pick it up – I’d love to know what you think.
      Lynn 😀

  9. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Reading your review, I thought that having so many characters with heavy past history would certainly weigh down the story, and if you add a not-so-good ending the promise of the book might very well end up in disappointment – which is a pity because there were so many Overlook Hotel vibes here…
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, I think there are too many competing elements in terms of the mystery, the backstory, the strong emotional elements, the creepy horror story taking place – which loses some of it’s momentum in the fact that the main pov is always second guessing herself or making foolish decisions. But, it wasn’t a bad read – just the ending was not satisfying for me and the epilogue confusing. I think it could be partly me as well to be honest. Too high expectations for example. I did enjoy the horror vibe and wished that the story had concentrated a little more on that aspect.
      Lynn 😀

  10. Lexlingua

    Well, that tagline is certainly ominous enough. You won’t *want* to leave until you *can’t*… And I know how high expectations lead to suffering, has resulted in a lot of wasted reading hours. Sorry this one didn’t turn out to be better!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, I think I could be in the minority with this one so it might simply be a case of misguided expectations.
      Lynn 😀

  11. waytoofantasy

    Totally know what it’s like to let your expectations get the better of you–happens to us all from time to time. Glad you were still able to find some things to enjoy about this one though!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, the horror elements were really good, I think that they suffered a little ultimatey by too much focus on other things when. for me, panic should have been setting in.
      Lynn 😀

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