Excerpt from The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Sun Down Motel

by Simone St. James

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James X
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2020, 336 pages
    Oct 2020, 352 pages


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Print Excerpt

Pulling a notebook from her purse, Viv pulled a pen from between its pages, opened the notebook on the desk, and wrote.

Nov. 29

Door to number 103 has begun to open again. Prank calls. No one here. Tracy Waters is dead.

A sound came from outside, and she paused, her head half raised. A bang, and then another one. Rhythmic and wild. The door to number 103 blowing open and hitting the wall in the wind. Again.

For a second, Viv closed her eyes. The fear came over her in a wave, but she was too far in it now. She was already here. She had to be ready. The Sun Down had claimed her for the night.

She lowered the pen again.

What if everything I've seen, everything I think, is true? Because I think it is.

Her eyes glanced to the guest book, took in the names there. She paused as the clock on the wall behind her shoulder ticked on, then wrote again.

The ghosts are awake tonight. They're restless. I think this will be over soon. Her hand trembled, and she tried to keep it steady. I'm so sorry, Tracy. I've failed.

A small sound escaped the back of her throat, but she bit it down into silence. She put the pen down and rubbed her eyes, some of the pretty lavender eyeshadow coming off on her fingertips.

It was November 29, 1982, 11:24 p.m.

By three o'clock in the morning, Viv Delaney had vanished.

That was the beginning.

Fell, New York

November 2017


This place was unfamiliar.

I opened my eyes and stared into the darkness, panicked. Strange bed, strange light through the window, strange room. I had a minute of free fall, frightening and exhilarating at the same time.

Then I remembered: I was in Fell, New York.

My name was Carly Kirk, I was twenty years old, and I wasn't supposed to be here.

I checked my phone on the nightstand; it was four o'clock in the morning, only the light from streetlamps and the twenty-four-hour Denny's shining through the sheer drapes on the hotel room window and making a hazy square on the wall.

I wasn't getting back to sleep now. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and picked up my glasses from the nightstand, putting them on. I'd driven from Illinois yesterday, a long drive that left me tired enough to sleep like the dead in this bland chain hotel in downtown Fell.

It wasn't that impressive a place; Google Earth had told me that much. Downtown was a grid of cafŽs, laundromats, junky antique stores, apartment rental buildings, and used-book stores, nestled reverently around a grocery store and a CVS. The street I was on, with the chain hotel and the Denny's, passed straight through town, as if a lot of people got to Fell and simply kept driving without making the turnoff into the rest of the town. The welcome to fell sign I'd passed last night had been vandalized by a wit who had used spray paint to add the words turn back.

I didn't turn back.

With my glasses on, I picked up my phone again and scrolled through the emails and texts that had come in while I slept.

The first email was from my family's lawyer. The remainder of funds has been deposited into your account. Please see breakdown attached.

I flipped past it without reading the rest, without opening the attachment. I didn't need to see it: I already knew I'd inherited some of Mom's money, split with my brother, Graham. I knew it wasn't riches, but it was enough to keep me in food and shelter for a little while. I didn't want numbers, and I couldn't look at them. Losing your mother to cancer-she was only fifty-one-made things like money look petty and stupid.

In fact, it made you rethink everything in your life. Which in my crazy way, after fourteen months in a fog of grief, I was doing. And I couldn't stop.

There was a string of texts from Graham. What do you think you're doing, Carly? Leaving college? For how long? You think you can keep up? Whatever. If all that tuition is down the drain, you're on your own. You know that, right? Whatever you're doing, good luck with it. Try not to get killed.

Excerpted from The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James. Copyright © 2020 by Simone St. James. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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