#BookReview: The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse @TransworldBooks #TheSanatorium #damppebbles

EVERYONE’S IN DANGER. ANYONE COULD BE NEXT.

An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it’s beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous – as does her brother, Isaac.

And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin’s unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

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’re all in . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse. The Sanatorium is published in the UK today (that’s Thursday 18th February 2021) by Bantam Press and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of The Sanatorium but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Sanatorium was impossible to resist! That intriguing title, the striking, atmospheric cover, the enticing blurb. It screamed my name so I had to read it. This is the second book I’ve read set in the Alps in the space of a month but it gave me a whole different set of chills.

Detective Elin Warner and her boyfriend are staying at an isolated boutique hotel in the Swiss Alps. The hotel itself has an unnerving history, having started its life as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. Her estranged brother has surprisingly invited Elin to his engagement party. He’s marrying a childhood friend of hers, the glamorous Laure. Elin is happy to leave the UK for a while as, following her last case, something happened which made her doubt her future in the police force. But on arrival, nervous Elin is instantly put on edge even more by the imposing setting. The pressing snow storm doesn’t help her feel any safer. The relationship between Elin and her brother, Isaac, is tense and a missed dinner invitation causes more upset. But the following morning, Isaac reports Laure missing. The snow storm and the risk of avalanches cuts off all access to the hotel as the search for Laure continues. They’re on their own. Elin needs to step up and take control of the situation. Which, despite feeling hesitant, she feels ready to do. Until they discover the body…

Poor Elin. From the start of The Sanatorium she’s on the edge and that doesn’t really change very much as the story progresses. She’s a troubled woman who carries the tragic death of her brother at the age of 8 in her heart and her mind. The real reason for her decision to reconnect with her estranged other brother becomes very clear to the reader. She wants the truth and the only person who can give it to her is Isaac. Her grief has moulded and shaped her into the woman she is today. Elin is an interesting character who at times I really liked and admired, at other times I wanted to sit her down and ask her what the fluff she was doing!

The mystery aspect of The Sanatorium was interesting and it kept me turning the pages. I think the time has come to admit that perhaps I’ve read too many crime books as I could guess a couple of plot points which, disappointingly, turned out to be accurate. There weren’t any big surprises for me in this novel but that’s my own personal experience and I wouldn’t let that put you off.

I adored the setting. I love isolated, claustrophobic settings in novels and this one is done particularly well. The snowy mountains feel as though they’re pressing in on the hotel and the unpredictability of the avalanches was really wonderful. Picturing the icy scenes in my mind gave me goosebumps! Marvellous stuff.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend The Sanatorium to anyone who enjoys a locked-room mystery with a bit of an icy twist. The plot moves at a steady pace and keeps the reader turning the pages. There was something about the ending which didn’t quite work for me. I can’t really go into any detail as I would be revealing too much and that wouldn’t be fair but I did enjoy reading The Sanatorium and I would gladly read more from this author. It’s a chilling, atmospheric mystery which I was happy to lose myself in. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of The Sanatorium. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse was published in the UK by Bantam Press on Thursday 18th February 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | the damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Sarah Pearse lives by the sea in South Devon with her husband and two daughters. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick and worked in Brand PR for a variety of household brands. After moving to Switzerland in her twenties, she spent every spare moment exploring the mountains in the Swiss Alpine town of Crans Montana, the dramatic setting that inspired her novel. Sarah has always been drawn to the dark and creepy – remote spaces and abandoned places – so when she read an article in a local Swiss magazine about the history of sanatoriums in the area, she knew she’d found the spark of the idea for her debut novel, The Sanatorium. Her short fiction has been published in a wide variety of magazines and has been shortlisted for several prizes.

#BookReview: The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd @TransworldBooks @1stMondayCrime #TheMemoryWood #damppebbles

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Elijah has lived in the Memory Wood for as long as he can remember. It’s the only home he’s ever known.

Elissa has only just arrived. And she’ll do everything she can to escape.

When Elijah stumbles across thirteen-year-old Elissa, in the woods where her abductor is hiding her, he refuses to alert the police. Because in his twelve years, Elijah has never had a proper friend. And he doesn’t want Elissa to leave.

Not only that, Elijah knows how this can end. After all, Elissa isn’t the first girl he’s found inside the Memory Wood.

As her abductor’s behaviour grows more erratic, Elissa realises that outwitting strange, lonely Elijah is her only hope of survival. Their cat-and-mouse game of deception and betrayal will determine both their fates, and whether either of them will ever leave the Memory Wood . . .”

A very warm welcome to the blog today and to my review of The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd. Now, had life been relatively normal (normalish) then tonight would have seen the first First Monday Crime Night of the year. But we’re all on lock down so it’s obviously not happening (#StayHomeSaveLives #StayHomeStaySafe). That doesn’t mean we can’t shout about the brilliant authors who were due to appear though, no siree! Sam Lloyd, author of the haunting The Memory Wood, was due to be taking part this evening so I, of course, leapt at the chance to read this INCREDIBLE book. I have to be completely honest with you here. As soon as I saw this book, before I’d even read the blurb, I knew I had to read it. The cover gave me chills. I received a free ARC of The Memory Wood but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Memory Wood had my attention as soon as I set eyes on it; that stunning cover, the intriguing blurb. You know when you get ‘that’ feeling about a book…? You just know that it’s going to be something special? You don’t know how you know, you just do? That’s the feeling I had about The Memory Wood. Expectations were high. Oh, the pressure! And I wasn’t disappointed one jot. What a mesmerising, creepy crime thriller. Full of tension and dread. I absolutely loved this book!

Elijah lives with his family at the Game Keeper’s Cottage in the grounds of Rufus Hall, near the Memory Wood. Elijah’s life is quiet and sedate. He doesn’t attend school but he has a love of words and likes to think that makes him cleverer than the average 12-year-old. One day, while exploring a crumbling cottage in the wood, Elijah makes a discovery. Thirteen year old, Elissa. Chained to the floor and desperate to escape, Elissa pleads with Elijah to help her. But Elijah knows he can’t help and he can’t really understand why she is so desperate to leave. After all, they’ve only just met! In Elissa he sees a friend, a confidant and someone to spend his time with. He’s enchanted by her. But Elissa isn’t the first girl Elijah has discovered chained up beneath the cottage. And Elijah knows what happened to the other children when they refused to play by their captor’s rules…

I thoroughly enjoyed The Memory Wood. It was everything I hoped it would be and maybe even a little bit more on top! The author has done a wonderful job of making his reader feel they are there, living in the wood with these strange characters. The story is told from three perspectives; Elijah, Elissa and the detective in charge of finding Elissa, Detective Superintendent Mairead MacCullagh. I loved DS MacCullagh and thought the author made her even more interesting with the addition of an issue you don’t see every day. I hope this isn’t the last we see of MacCullagh as I would gladly read an entire series with her as the lead character. Elissa, the kidnapped 13-year-old, is an incredible character. Wise beyond her years with an intelligence to match. I loved how emotionally strong she was in the face of adversity. How every action was considered in detail and how determined she was to escape the clutches of her captor. Astute and spirited, she’ll be difficult to forget – that’s for sure! And poor, troubled Elijah. My heart broke for him.

The plot moves along at a steady pace and I was keen to find out how Elijah and Elissa’s story was going to end. There are a couple of ‘gasp-out-loud’ moments which turn the book on its head for the reader and I loved them! Cat and mouse game? Yes, definitely. But it’s more intricate, more detailed, more involving than that. Game of chess anyone? (Chess features quite heavily in the story so it only seemed fair….)

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s a beautifully written, unsettling and atmospheric novel and I devoured it. With characters that will leave their mark on you, whether in a good way….or a not so good way, this book will be hard to forget. And if anyone ever utters the words ‘say you understand’ to me ever again then I may have a heart attack right there and then. Those three words will forever send chills down my spine. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review an ARC of The Memory Wood. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd was published in the UK by Bantam Press on 20th February 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Sam Lloyd grew up in Hampshire, making up stories and building secret hideaways in his local woods. These days he lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons and a dog that likes to howl. The Memory Wood is his debut thriller.