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The Sanatorium    by Sarah Pearse order for
by Sarah Pearse
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2021 (2021)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Sarah Pearse's The Sanatorium is a murder mystery set in Le Sommet, an isolated, remote and rather sinister five star hotel high up in the Swiss Alps. Architect Daniel Lemaitre re-designed the building from its original use as a tuberculosis sanatorium for his oldest friend, property developer Lucas Caron. Daniel worried because there were protests about the construction and rumors of corruption. Before the hotel even opened, Daniel disappeared in 2015, while visiting the site.

Fast forward to 2020 and readers meet detective Elin Warner, on leave from her job as a Detective Sergeant in England, after a challenging case. Her estranged brother Isaac and his fiancée Laure have invited her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, and she travels there with her partner, architect Will Riley. Elin dreads seeing Isaac, whom she blames for her younger brother Sam's death many years before and for leaving her to cope alone with their mother's cancer and death. She's haunted by her last moments with Sam, and suffers regular panic attacks.

After Elin and Will's arrival, there are a series of deaths, the bodies found with black gas masks on their faces. Laure goes missing. Lemaitre's corpse is found. Elin is attacked. Most guests leave as a massive storm moves in. The remainder, including Elin, Will and Isaac are unable to leave after an avalanche blocks the road. Swiss police cannot reach the hotel to look into the deaths and disappearance. Lucas Caron asks Elin to help investigate and she reluctantly agrees, consulting with Swiss police by phone.

What is behind the murders? Elin finally discovers that it's all 'about the past, what the hotel used to be. The sanatorium' and how its patients were abused. Though I found the plot rather meandering, The Sanatorium is worth reading as an atmospheric mystery with more than one intriguing and hard-to-guess puzzle for readers to solve.

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