Mystery · Suspense

The Sanatorium (Detective Elin Warner, #1) by Sarah Pearse

Now here’s a thriller that was both exciting and surprising.

Where to begin? A creepy, isolated building that was once a sanatorium is turned into a luxury hotel in the mid of the Swiss Alps. What can possibly go wrong here? Let’s start with bad weather and a series of avalanches that stop anybody from getting out. In the end we have people disappearing and turning up dead. In the middle, Elin Warner, a Detective on extended leave, has no option but to investigate the strange events while wrestling with her own demons.

The setting of this novel is nothing short of amazing. In this isolated location and Switzerland, Sarah Pearse created a suspenseful and mysterious murder mystery that mixes the past and the present of a building with a dark past. The resolution of the murder was a surprise. It took a turn I wasn’t expecting and the connection between the present and the past was surprisingly well done. It kept me guessing and the complexity of it makes me want to read it again to see if I can find all the clues I missed in this first read.

The main character is something else too. Elin is a complex and flawed character, struggling to deal with the loss of her younger brother when she was still a child, the dead of her mother who she nursed at home, and a case gone wrong which left her with PTSD. Being the only law enforcement on site, Elin is forced to take things into her own hands, but her rash and emotional decision put both herself and the people around her at risk. Even so, she never stops from trying to find some light at the end of the tunnel and slowly gains confidence as she starts investigating. I can’t say she’s a reliable character though, nor that she is ready to go back on active duty after this book, but at least she manages to identify the source of certain issues, which is progress.

Will, the main male character and Elin’s boyfriend is very patient and understanding. While he struggles to understand the depth of Elin’s mental health and tries to help, he’s always by her side to give wise and rational advice, not allowing her to go off the rails. He stands by her throughout and it’s obvious that his support is essential to Elin, who needs a stable element in her life.

A great debut novel with an original setting, a creepy location and a atmospheric plot.

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