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The Sanatorium

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Converted sanatorium urned into five star hotel—-stop right there while I clear my reading calendar! I was completely sold on this intense and atmospheric debut from the opening description. Then it was picked as a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick and that right there was enough to get me even more excited about this novel!

It has been getting a ton of advanced praise and so much buzz on social media but when I started reading it, it was easy to see that all the buzz was absolutely worth it! I loved the atmosphere of this book and it was exactly what I was hoping that it would be, something dark, twisty, and chilling.

I normally don’t like minimalist or super cold Norwegian/Scandinavian type thrillers but this novel has so much to recommend itself and it’s not to be missed. I also included some videos about the resort and the author talking about the book as well so keep reading to check both of those out and if you are looking for your next thriller, this is it!

You won’t want to leave. . . until you can’t.

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. (summary from Goodreads)

For atmosphere alone, this book gets 5 stars. The creepy and chilling feel of the hotel was pitch perfect. Fans of classic Gothic lit will find this modern tale worthy of all the praise. While I loved all the atmosphere and the general feel/tone of the book, the thing that mad it sparkle for me was the classic whodunnit-ness of the mystery. It reminded me a little of an Agatha Christie mystery with the trapped guests and how Elin worked to solve the mystery mixed with all the Gothic deliciousness of a horror story. I loved the combo and it got 5 stars in the setting category for me.

But this one wasn’t without some flaws. For all the love I had for this one, the ending left me reeling. I enjoyed the twists and turns of the story as well as the creep factor of the setting, but the ending felt a little like I was being told how things went instead of being shown. Everything about this one was so strong right up until the end. The ending felt rushed for me and I had a hard time fully buying into it. But even with an ending that left me a little let down, this book was absolutely a great read.

I loved the dialogue and the characters had believable personalities and stories plus all the secrets, lies and motives for each suspect were intelligently thought out and interesting. For a debut novel this is superb even if the ending was a little meah for me. I enjoyed trying to solve the mystery and the twists were creepy and not predictable! Couple that with the atmosphere and you have a winning thriller in my book! I cannot wait to share this one with my fellow murder book club fans because I am sure they are going to love this one as much as I did.

I am eager to read another book by this author to see how she grows into her story telling style and voice. The ending needed a little refining but overall she has a winning combo in this book and a rock solid debut. Her skills can only improve and I am so excited to see what she comes up with next!

Hardcover, 400 pages

Published February 2nd 2021 by Pamela Dorman Books

Free review copy provided by publisher, Pamela Dorman Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating: 4 sars

Genre: gothic lit, mystery, thriller

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I absolutely love anything to do with an asylum or sanatorium so I immediately wanted to read this book. Boy, what a pooper!! I was so bored and just not interested in the story. It was a DNF for me. High hopes were dashed. Thankful to NetGalley for providing a copy of this title for me to read and review.

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Incredibly atmospheric and the perfect read for a snow covered weekend. Fast paced and full of interesting historical details, I still found it a bit unsatisfying. I didn't completely buy the motive of the killer. But, I did keep reading until the end and I'll probably return for the next one. The end definitely hints that Elin will go on to solve more cases.

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Atmospheric and creepy...I couldn’t put it down! The story takes place at an old tuberculosis hospital, recently converted into a high end hotel. When an engagement party gets stranded due to an avalanche, the murders begin.

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"Revenge in its most brutal form, tipping the power balance back the other way."

Elin Warner, on leave from her job as a detective in the UK, and her boyfriend, Will, travel to a new luxurious hotel on a mountain plateau above Crans-Montana in the Swiss Alps. They've been invited to Le Sommet by Elin's brother, Isaac, to celebrate his engagement to Laure Strehl. Elin and her brother are estranged because of an event that happened in their childhood, so things are a bit awkward as they settle in. There's a storm coming that threatens to interfere with the reunion and party, but that's not the worst of it. The day after they arrive, Laure goes missing. Elin's past as a detective kicks into high gear despite her insecurity about her abilities, and the search is on. From this point on, after an avalanche closes the main access road to the hotel, Elin is on her own as first one, and then another, body is discovered. Are these murders connected to the hotel's controversial history as a sanatorium for TB patients, or is this more personal? NO SPOILERS.

The atmosphere surrounding the renovated sanatorium and all its creepiness is perfect for reading on a very frigid winter day. Although I've read about 4 other books in similar settings, I still find the details of this locale quite fascinating. I found it a bit difficult to warm to Elin as the main character as she's a bit of a hot mess but her instincts kick in and she gets right down to business. Although it's a bit of a stretch to imagine that the Swiss police would not be able to get to the hotel to help investigate the murders, I just suspended my disbelief and went with it. I found this hard to put down as I kept trying to guess who was behind the murders and the motive so the climax and revelations came as a bit of a surprise after all. I enjoyed the story in all of its convoluted meandering despite some little irritations along the way.

Thank you to NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Viking Pamela Dorman Books for this e-book ARC to read, review, and recommend.

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Elin is attempting to re-establish a relationship with her estranged brother when a threatening storm leaves them stranded in a hotel in the Swiss Alps. When people start going missing, things escalate quickly. Add in the fact that the fancy hotel they are all trapped in used to be a sanatorium and the suspense will take you right over the edge.

If someone options this as a movie, I won't watch it. I almost died of a heart attack while reading it, I cannot imagine seeing it come to life in front of me. The setting is 10/10 terrifying. It would have been five stars from me if I didn't hate the main character so much. I usually like an unreliable narrator, but Elin just annoyed the crap out of me with her constant dwelling and second guessing.

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The Sanatorium has everything a good psychological thriller needs and then some. At one point or another throughout most of the book I thought every one of the main characters -- except the police detective -- was the killer.

The book is set in an old tuberculous sanatorium turned into a luxury hotel high in the Swiss Alps. Elin, the detective, and her boyfriend are there celebrating her brother's engagement when his fiancé disappears.. Because of a snowstorm, several guests and a number of staff members are trapped in the building, and no one can get to them, so Elin offers to work with the local police by phone to work the crime -- and others to follow.

Besides jurisdictional issues -- Elin is from the UK -- there are emotional issues for her. She's been on leave from her department for about year because of something that happened in her last case. She also has issues with her brother and flashbacks about another brother who died years ago.

I don't want to give away too much more but I will say that even when the killer was revealed I didn't see the reason for the actions coming at all. But it makes perfect sense.

What a debut! I'm looking forward to more from Sarah Pearse.

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This is the newest Reese Witherspoon recommendation and I can see why. The suspense is breathtaking, and I could not put it down! Many times in thrillers, the characters are unlikeable or unrelatable - that is not the case here and I also loved that it took place in an old sanatorium - so creepy!

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The Sanatorium is an eerie, atmospheric novel set in the Swiss Alps. Elin has been invited to celebrate her brother's engagement at a remote resort. Battling depression and PTSD, Elin hopes to reconnect with her semi-estranged brother after the death of their mother, so she and her boyfriend travel to the Alps as a respite from work and stress. Unfortunately, the guests are all snowed in and Elin suddenly finds herself pursuing a killer within the confines of the resort. This is an excellent locked room mystery, one of many that have been published recently. What sets this one apart is the fact that Elin is an actual detective - not an amateur or someone who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is dark and unsettling and very fun to read. It's a page-turner for sure, and is perfect for anyone who found Ruth Ware's snowy resort mystery du jour a bit disappointing.

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Warning: The Sanatorium is like nothing reviewed here. Psychologically suspenseful novels characterize books blogged about, but none single-mindedly focused on a crime, a murder. Actually, three murders and several failed or thwarted attempts.

The publisher categorizes The Sanatorium as mystery fiction – a different literary genre for this blog, and different from a thriller. Both include subgenres, whodunit and hard-boiled detective in the mystery category. British author Sarah Pearse’s gripping debut is a whodunit involving a detective: Elin Warner in her thirties on leave for the past year from her job in England due to traumatic professional and personal events. But the novel isn’t only a mystery. The rest is part thriller and part Gothic. Why tell you this?

Because: if you’re expecting a mystery without the horror of a thriller, this is not that novel as the murders are gruesome. You’ll viscerally squirm, feeling the way Elin does, feeling your adrenaline pumping. The Sanatorium is not for the faint of heart.

The set-up: Elin has been invited by her brother Isaac to the “absolute remoteness” of a mountaintop high-up in the Swiss Alps to celebrate his engagement to Laure, someone she was friends with growing up. They haven’t been in touch for years. The invite surprises her since she hasn’t heard from Isaac for four years, and didn’t know he and Laure hooked up. The party will be held at a newly opened, architecturally striking hotel appropriately named Le Sommet, a former sanatorium for TB patients. For someone under pressure to decide whether she has what it takes to return to her detective job, accompanied by her boyfriend Will whose also pressuring her to make a commitment about their relationship, her stress and the stakes are already high. Elin’s wits and stomach will be tested. Yours will be too.

A funicular carries them from the town of Sierre to the ultra-modern yet Gothic feeling mountain resort. As soon as Elin sees it, “her body is reacting to something here; something living, breathing, woven into the DNA of the building.”

Meanwhile, Will, totally her opposite, is so easygoing the contrast between the two contributes to more stress when someone at the hotel goes missing and is later found dead. As if that’s not enough tension, an avalanche is approaching that will close every means of transport down (car, helicopter), so no one can get in or out of the hotel. Add to that mountains with sharp, jagged edges, along with some “edgy in that paired-back, European style” characters, you have the ingredients for a nasty brew. The weather is brutal, the hotel “austere” and “clinical,” and the murders are brutal too. So why review The Sanatorium on a blog called Enchanted Prose?

From a prose perspective, a Gothic element related to setting that enables scary atmospheric prose makes the novel a standout.

Pearse chooses specific words to elicit dark foreboding, creepy emotions that would not prime us as forcefully without the powerful setting and atmospheric prose. The prose is cleverly crafted to propel us forward in spite of the horrors. Another perspective is the crimes are so beastly you’re compelled to figure out who the perpetrator is and what’s the motive, echoing how driven Elin is. We cannot stop reading any more than Elin can’t stop putting herself in danger. We’re as baffled as she is as none of the few clues presented connect until we’re about 90% done, and then Elin and the reader are foiled again, and then one more time until the whodunit and why is finally revealed.

All the murders have a similar “signature” (the ritual unique to the offender): copper bracelets with numbers engraved on the back, the attacker is grotesquely masked, with another calling card left by the victims, a glass box with something repugnant inside. The glass, though, fits the excessive use of glass in the hotel rebuilding. So much glass, Elin feels more vulnerable than she already is.

Which brings us to a theme common in this blog: fiction inspired by history. The novel was inspired by the history of sanatoriums in the 1920s and 1930s through the fifties until the advent of antibiotics cured tuberculosis patients. Located in crisp, high-altitude, sunny mountain air in Europe (in the US too) for healing, Switzerland’s Alps, particularly in Davos, and other places like the Crans-Montana region setting were highly regarded treatment locales. Pearse once lived in Switzerland in Crans-Montana, so when she read about sanatoriums in a Swiss magazine it sparked the idea for the novel.

Staying true to history, once sanatoriums had served their purpose many were converted to other types of establishments, including hotels. Fictionally, the original structure of Le Sommet was built in the late 1800s by the great-grandfather of the new developer/owner, Lucas Caron, who spent eight years on his luxury project, which we learn was inspired by Joseph Dirand, a Paris architect, who designed in the minimalist style.

A chilling quote by Dirand prefaces the novel: “I have loved constraints. They give me comfort.” Constraints a key word to the murderer’s style, comfort twisted hinting at the motive. Since we weren’t aware of the significance of the quote, it’s easy to skip over it. Yet Pearse is announcing pay attention to her words. Turns out the conversion of sanatoriums did give rise to minimalism architecture, retaining the concept of airiness, lightness, cleanliness. Le Sommet embraces minimalism with “the air of the institution in stark lines, the relentless rectangular planes and faces, the modernist flat roofs,” and all that glass.

The novel oozes with prose that ups the ante of fear. Words like “sinister” depict the mountains; “smothering,” “suffocating,” and “choked” for the snow; “terrifying” wind; “lurid” and “obscenely bright” describing the sun reflecting on the water in the outdoor pool.

As for the whodunit: The novel opens in 2020, so Erin doesn’t know about the first victim, Daniel, the hotel architect, who was murdered in 2015, in the Prologue. Brother Lucas becomes a suspect as he’s obsessed with paying tribute to the hotel’s history incorporating cringe-worthy artifacts, yet he delayed the hotel’s opening for a year grieving Daniel, a close friend. Let’s say he’s a person of interest, and not the only one grieving. One by one other suspects are identified; some of these characters go missing and we’re back to square one.

Ellen sometimes frustrates us to such a degree we want to shake her shoulders as she does foolish things putting herself in harm’s way. We’re also in awe of how much she’s willing to risk to find a killer on the loose in the hotel before another crime is perpetrated. Will is frustrated too as he had high-hopes for what he thought would be a vacation, a chance for Elin to relax, to come back to him. Will she?

Feverishly we flip pages, finishing this edge-of-your seat 400 page novel in no time. Be grateful you’re reading it from afar.

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The Sanatorium
A Novel
by Sarah Pearse
Read an Excerpt
You Like Them
Pamela Dorman Books
Mystery & Thrillers
Pub Date 02 Feb 2021 | Archive Date Not set

I love mystery and thriller books! The setting was creepy and this had all the ingredients for a great novel but I just couldn't get into it. I did not like the characters and the author lacked developing them.
Thanks to Penguin Group Viking, Pamela Dorman Books, and NetGalley for the ARC.
3 star

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This title wasn't for me, but readers who like suspenseful tales with complicated main characters may appreciate this mystery set in a renovated Swiss sanatorium. I grew too frustrated with the protagonist, but recognize imperfect officers are definitely part of the genre. The setting was a great choice as it helps the tension/horror of the crimes really hit.

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During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the medical community opened a new type of institution: the sanatorium. Designed to be a place where tuberculosis patients could receive treatment for their illness, these care facilities were usually built in high altitude locations in order to provide the freshest of air, as at the time, that cold and fresh air was believed to be the best treatment for diseases of the lung. They offered nutrition, sunlight, peaceful rest, and cool, crisp mountain air as the ideal course to help patients heal. Having a beautiful and cold mountain region that fit these criteria perfect, Switzerland was home to many of these sanatoriums. This was, of course, before the discovery of antibiotics, which provided an actual cure for tuberculosis and other diseases. After this breakthrough, these places either shut down or were repurposed for other uses. Unfortunately, sometimes these places also have sordid histories…

Sarah Pearse’s debut novel takes one of these treatment facilities and gives it new life. Architects Lucas Caron and Daniel Lemaitre took an old sanatorium and turned it into a hotel, redesigning this place of illness and suffering into a top of the line luxury resort, tucked deep into the mountains of Switzerland. Main character Elin Warner and her boyfriend Will are headed there to celebrate the engagement of her brother Isaac to their childhood friend, Laure. Alas, someone has other plans for the hotel guests and as winter storms cut them off from the rest of the world, a murderer’s plot unfolds. What the killer doesn’t know is that, even though she’s on leave, Elin just so happens to be a detective, and she’s thrust into a thrilling hunt for a clever killer.

I love a good mystery thriller, especially one set in a locale that’s cut off from the rest of the world, where one (or a few) characters have to use the limited resources they have to solve the case. This book reminded me of some of my favorite stories, with elements reminiscent of The Shining, one of my absolute favorite horror novels and also set in a snow-isolated hotel with a sordid history; of Agatha Christie, a Master of mystery and the Queen of devious plotting with a limited cast of suspects; of the masterpiece PlayStation 4 game “Until Dawn,” in which a group of friends go to a remote cabin lodge that just so happens to have creepy mines and an abandoned sanatorium nearby - and of course, a fantastic, deliciously horrifying storyline.

The Sanatorium was a superbly written amalgam of the aspects I loved best about these stories, minus the paranormal, of course. It’s hard to believe that this is Pearse’s debut novel, as it reads as if it were written by a seasoned author. While I did suspect the killer early on, my theories as to why and how were way off base, and there were some twists and turns that knocked my suppositions off their feet. I love when a mystery author can find new ways to shock and confuse, and Pearse definitely had me second-guessing myself the whole way through.

All in all, highly recommended read for those who love mystery, thriller, and almost-horror suspense novels.

Thanks to Netgalley and the Penguin Group/Pamela Dorman Books for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

Originally posted at

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"The Sanatorium" didn't really work for me. It had a great, atmospheric setting and premise, but there were just too many things that ultimately didn't work. Something about the pacing just seemed off--it bounced back-and-forth between moving along and nothing really happening. Character-development and motives weren't quite there, either. In the end, it ended up being just OK.

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This new trend of setting suspense novels in snowed in resorts really works.

Elin has some issues. She's been suppressing a younger brother's death and the fragments of the memory she does have makes her believe her older brother had something to do with it. She goes to his engagement party on the Swiss Alps. After an avalanche cuts them off from the main road, a body is discovered.

This is a good suspense novel. There was a time when I thought I knew the killer but then they were killed. The setting is cold and disturbing. But who thought an abandoned mental institution would be a good place to relax? I didn't like that I was supposed to think the deaths were deserved.

This review is based on an advanced reader copy provided through Netgalley for an honest review.

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I have been in one of my reading funks lately. Everything I have picked up I only make it through a few chapters, then place it aside. I hate it when I get that way and this time has been surprisingly long. Maybe it's everything that is happening in the world today and I just can't concentrate but this book broke the ice for me. I actually read it through to the very end and found the spark I thought I had lost.

A fancy new hotel constructed on the site of an old tuberculosis sanatorium high in the Alps; a raging snowstorm stranding some of the guests; a emotionally scarred police detective trying to achieve her previous life and abilities----what could possible go wrong?

Secrets, betrayals, misconceptions will all combine as the raging blizzard to force Elin into a world she thought she had left behind, but had never left her. She will question, doubt and even berate herself but the truth will win out and redemption is not such an unachievable goal.

If I have any criticism I felt the book was too long, some things could be condensed and since this was an ARC that is to be expected. Oh, did I mention the ending? I hope there is a sequel.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Viking for the ARC of The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearce. I enjoy reading locked room mysteries and this one fit the bill!

I was immediately drawn into the premise of this atmospheric thriller. A grand hotel is built on the site of an old sanatorium in the Swiss Alps. Elin and her boyfriend Will are meeting her estranged brother, Isaac to celebrate his engagement. Elin hasn’t seen her brother in many years and is nervous to reunite. When a snow storm blows in and an avalanches strikes, the guests are locked into the hotel.

But there is more! Isaac’s fiancé turns up missing and a serial killer is on the loose! The guests soon learn that they are in danger. When people begin to turn up dead, Elin is forced to confront her fears and take over as the detective on the scene. However, she has been on leave from her job, and is questioning her capability. Will she figure out who the murderer is before they kill again?

This thriller really hooked me from the start. The short chapters, fast moving plot and sense of isolation all contribute to the sense of foreboding at the hotel. The extreme weather conditions also reinforce the the characters’ inability to escape their dangerous situation. The serial killer’s signature staging of the victims led me to believe his/her connection to the victims was personal and related to the history of the sanatorium/hotel, which it mostly was. There were a few twists that seemed out of left field and others that were too predictable. In the end, while I enjoyed the lead up to reveal, I was left feeling somewhat disappointed. This book had a lot of promise for a creepy ending, but I just didn’t deliver.

3/5 stars

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Omg I absolutely LOVED this novel. If I could rate it a 10 I would! This would be brilliant to convert to a movie!

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A locked room mystery set in the Swiss Alps in a beautiful hotel that used to be a Sanatorium with dark secrets.
Visiting the minimalist yet posh Le Sommet, Ellin and her boyfriend are hoping to get away while celebrating her estranged brother's engagement...but Ellin can't help it, everything feels very off. It doesn't take long for bodies to start showing up as a storm shuts them all in.
Ellin's life as a detective quickly gets put to use as she tries to sort through the clues and the motives, and the past.
This was is a slow burn sort of a book. Very good, just not a quick read.

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I really liked the setting. There were a lot of moving parts and it was definitely a wild ride. It wasn't anything mind-blowing, but I thought it was a well-written mystery/thriller. The plot was riveting till the end. I was anxious to finish. Thank you to NetGalley for this advanced reader's copy. #thesanitorium #netgalley

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