Book Review: The Sanatorium by Sarah Pease

The Sanatorium…

About the Book:

High in the Swiss Alps, a luxury hotel opens in what was once a sanatorium, but the new design can’t hide the building’s dark history for long . . . This is the chilling debut from the hottest new talent in crime fiction.


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 . . .

My Thoughts:

This was entirely twisting and chilling, a proper scare read that delivers on what it promises. The setting was the perfect backdrop for a story such as this: secluded and remote, high up in the Swiss Alps during winter, inside a grand and imposing building with a sinister history. Old institutions and sanatoriums always reel me in. There’s something about the history of these places that gives way to unease; vulnerable patients at the mercy of medical experimentation. A history that is not all that far back. This aspect of the story was the most sobering, a nod to the many women who were unjustly institutionalised and subsequently subjected to illegal medical experimentation, the crimes against them hidden and without consequence.

This story twists and turns so much that it almost ties itself up in knots. Elin is a police detective who is taking extended leave. An attack has left her rattled and exposed some undealt with trauma that prevents her from being in the right frame of mind for returning to work. Stormy weather leads to a mass evacuation, but before everyone can leave, an avalanche hits and blocks the remaining people in. No one can get out, no one can get in. Then people start going missing and turning up dead. It’s creepy and frightening and the more Elin delves into what’s going on, the more she keeps getting it wrong. Suspicion jumps from one person to the next, death ultimately ruling each new suspect out. In terms of a whodunit, it was impossible (for me) to guess the who and the why. When all is revealed, I was a bit underwhelmed, to be honest. Everything gets tied up, but it all plays out a little differently to what I was expecting.

The novel has an epilogue that I thought was entirely unnecessary. I honestly had no idea what it was alluding to. Thank goodness for Goodreads and the fact that you can always count on someone to explain obscure endings within reviews. I will confess that I still am at a loss as to why this was left in the story. The person it alludes to was not even a character I remembered the name of. It’s a part of the story I simply read and forgot. I think, coming at the end of such a terrifically chilling and twisting tale, this epilogue falls flat, another twist that adds little value but a lot of bewilderment.

This aside, The Sanatorium is still a novel I’d highly recommend. I haven’t read an actual scary novel for a long while and this was a treat to tingle the senses.


Thanks is extended to Penguin Random House Australia for providing me with a copy of The Sanatorium for review.

About the Author:

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 and still has a home 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. You can find Sarah on Twitter @SarahVPearse and Instagram @sarahpearseauthor

The Sanatorium
Published by Penguin Random House Australia – Bantam Press
Released 16th February 2021

11 thoughts on “Book Review: The Sanatorium by Sarah Pease

  1. I’m with you 100% on this one Theresa! It was the PERFECT setting for a mystery thriller, and it had me shivering in more ways than one… but then that ending? Which needed a big long expositional speech from the villain to make sense? And then that epilogue? Felt like a bit of a let down after such a promising start.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoyed your thoughts on this one Theresa. I love a thriller or a good mystery where the building (hotel, mansion, run down estate etc.) is also a main character. I’ve been tempted to pick this one up, however the similarity (again) to One by One by Ruth Ware, where an avalanche cuts off access to the outside world somewhere in the Swiss Alps and people start disappearing was too much. Glad this was a 4 star read for you though.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Life According to Literature Tag | Theresa Smith Writes

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