The setting is Le Sommet, a former sanatorium high in the Swiss Alps that’s been converted to a five star hotel. The architect boasts of using a minimalist design, which works well with a structure that was once used for institutional purposes. Elin Warner is a UK detective on leave following a traumatic case. She and her boyfriend, Will, who is an architect (but not related to this project) are there to meet her estranged brother Isaac and his fiancée Laure to celebrate their engagement. A storm is threatening and it’s not just the weather.
From the first sentences, the setting becomes one of the primary characters and is as much a fixture of the story as they are and the action that follows. Rather than her being able to lessen the anxiety that led to her leave, Elin finds herself in a situation that heightens her problems. When people start disappearing and turning up dead, she’s forced to take the lead on the investigations once the weather strands them at the hotel. Initially I thought I could work with the clues and use my own deduction skills to flesh out the plot and culprits but I had to give up because of the confluence of Elin’s issues, the heavy weight of the setting descriptions and the absence of character depth. It was impossible.
I liked the story but felt this was a case where it was too atmospheric. Also, who in their right mind thinks a former sanatorium would be a good idea for a 5-star hotel site? I got lost in the imagery and too many oblique characters and just wanted it to end by the time I got to the 85% mark. Too much was explained in the final chapters instead of me feeling like I’d been led there. I was still okay at this point because it was still intriguing despite my issues. But then there’s this bizarre epilogue that threw me out of the story, which isn’t a great way to end. However, I’m assigning a half star for the narrator who made a confusing story less so because of her storytelling skills, ability to manage accents and dialects with ease and excellence in creating character distinctions. She made the listening experience better. Another book featuring Elin Warner is planned for April and I’ll probably give her another try as we won’t be returning to this horrid sanatorium, I liked her and I need an answer to the unresolved matters (dang it all). Oh, and this would make a great movie.
- Release Date: February 2, 2021
- Narrator: Elizabeth Knowelden
- Audio Length: 11 hours, 59 minutes
- Publisher: Penguin Audio
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(Thanks to Penguin Audio for my complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.)