What could possibly go wrong at an abandoned sanatorium turned hotel? Throw in the Swiss Alps setting AND an off-duty detective and you know you are going to be in for some winter weather chills. And, NOT from the low temperatures. This book stopped us in our tracks. Well, at least we THINK they are our tracks.
"An eerie, atmospheric novel that had me completely on the edge of my seat." --Reese Witherspoon
You won't want to leave. . . until you can't.
Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Long plagued by troubling rumors, the former abandoned sanatorium has since been renovated into a five-star minimalist hotel.
An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin's taken time off from her job as a detective, so when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancée, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept.
Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge--there's something about the hotel that makes her nervous. And when they wake the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. With the storm closing off all access to the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.
Elin is under pressure to find Laure, 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 are all in. . .
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About the Author
Sarah Pearse grew up in Devon, UK, and studied English literature and creative writing at the University of Warwick before completing a postgraduate diploma in broadcast journalism. She lived in Switzerland for several years before returning to the UK. The Sanatorium, her debut, was an instant New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller, and was selected as a Reese's Book Club Pick. The Retreat is her second novel.
Read an Excerpt
Press Release – Under Embargo until midnight March 5th 2018
Hauts de Plumachit
Crans Montana 3963
5-STAR HOTEL SET TO OPEN IN THE SWISS RESORT OF CRANS MONTANA
Located on a sunny mountain plateau above Crans Montana, high in the Swiss Alps, Le Sommet is the brainchild of Swiss property developer Lucas Caron.
After eight years of extensive planning and construction, one of the town’s oldest sanatoriums is set to reopen as a luxury hotel.
The main building was designed in the early nineteenth century by Caron’s great-grandfather, Pierre. It became renowned worldwide as a center for treating tuberculosis before the advent of antibiotics forced its diversification.
More recently, it gained international recognition for its innovative architecture, earning the elder Caron a posthumous Swiss Arts Award in 1942. Combining clean lines with large panoramic windows, flat roofs, and unadorned geometrical shapes, one judge described the building as ‘groundbreaking’ – custom designed to fulfill its function as a hospital, while also creating a seamless transition between the interior and exterior landscapes.
Lucas Caron said: “It was time we breathed new life into this building. We were confident that with the right vision, we could create a sensitively restored hotel that would pay homage to its rich past.”
Under the guidance of Swiss architectural firm Lemaitre SA, a team has been assembled to renovate the building and also add a state-of-the-art spa and event center.
Subtly refurbished, Le Sommet will make innovative use of natural, local materials such as wood, slate, and stone. The hotel’s elegant, modern interiors will not only echo the powerful topography outside, but will draw on the building’s past to create a new narrative.
Philippe Volkem, CEO of Valais Tourisme, said, "This will doubtless be the jewel in the crown of what is already one of the finest winter resorts in the world."
For press enquiries, please contact Leman PR, Lausanne.
For general enquiries / bookings please visit www.lesommetcransmontana.ch.
The funicular from the valley town of Sierre to Crans‐Montana scores a near‐perfect vertical line up the mountainside.
Slicing through snow‐covered vineyards and the small towns of Venthone, Chermignon, Mollens, Randogne, and Bluche, the route, almost three miles long, takes passengers up the mountain in just twelve minutes.
In off‐peak season, the funicular is usually half empty. Most people drive up the mountain or take the bus. But today, with the roads almost station‐ ary thanks to heavy traffic, it’s full.
Elin Warner stands on the left in the packed carriage, absorbing it all: the fat flakes of snow collecting on the windows, the slush‐covered floor piled high with bags, the lanky teenagers shoving through the doors.
Her shoulders tense. She’s forgotten how kids that age can be: selfish, unaware of anyone but themselves.
A sodden sleeve brushes her cheek. She smells damp, cigarettes, fried food, the musky‐citrus tang of cheap aftershave. Then comes a throaty cough. Laughter.
A group of men are jostling through the doorway, talking loudly, bulg‐ ing North Face sports bags on their backs. They are squeezing the family next to her farther into the carriage. Into her. An arm rubs hers, beer breath hot against her neck.
Panic pushes through her. Her heart is racing.
Will it ever stop?
It’s been a year since the Hayler case and she’s still thinking about it, dreaming about it. Waking up in the night, sheets damp with sweat, the dream vivid in her head: the hand around her throat, damp walls contract‐ ing, closing in on her.
Then salt water; frothing, sloshing over her mouth, her nose . . .
Control it, she tells herself, forcing herself to read the graffiti on the wall of the funicular.
Don’t let it control you.
Her eyes dance over the scrawled letters weaving up the metal:
Ines & Ric 2016
Following the words up to the window, she startles. Her reflection . . . it pains her to look at it. She’s thin. Too thin.
It’s as if someone’s hollowed her out, carved the very core of her away. Her cheekbones are knife sharp, her slanted blue‐gray eyes wider, more pro‐ nounced. Even the choppy mess of pale blond hair, the blur of the scar on her upper lip, doesn’t soften her appearance.
She’s been training nonstop since her mother’s death. Ten‐K runs. Pilates. Weights. Cycling on the coast road between Torquay and Exeter in the blistering wind and rain.
It’s too much, but she doesn’t know how to stop, even if she should. It’s all she’s got; the only tactic to chase away what’s inside her head.
Elin turns away. Sweat pricks the back of her neck. Looking at Will, she tries to concentrate on his face, the familiar shadow of stubble grazing his chin, the untamable dark blond tufts of his hair. “Will, I’m burning up.”
His features contract. She can see the blueprint of future wrinkles in his anxious face; a starburst of lines around his eyes, light creases running across his forehead.
Elin shakes her head, tears stinging her eyes. “I don’t feel right.”
Will lowers his voice. “About this, or . . .”
She knows what he’s trying to say: Isaac. It’s both; him, the panic, they’re
“I don’t know.” Her throat feels tight. “I keep going over it, you know, the invitation, out of the blue. Maybe coming was the wrong decision. I should have thought about it more, or at least spoken to him properly before we let him book.”
“It’s not too late. We can always go back. Say I had problems with work.” Smiling, Will nudges his glasses up his nose with his forefinger. “This might count as the shortest‐ever holiday on record, but who cares.”
Elin forces herself to return his smile, a quiet sting of devastation at the contrast between then and now. How easily he’s accepted this: the new normal.
It’s the opposite of when they’d first met. Back then, she was peaking; that’s how she thinks of it now. At the pinnacle of her twentysomething life. She’d just bought her first apartment near the beach, the top floor of an old Victorian villa. Bijou, but high ceilings, views of a tiny square of sea.
Work was going well—she’d been promoted to detective sergeant, landed a big case, an important one, her mother was responding well to the first round of chemo. She thought she was on top of her grief for Sam, dealing with it, but now . . .
Her life has contracted. Closed down to become something that would have been unrecognizable to her a few years ago.
The doors are closing now, thick glass panels sliding together.
With a jolt, the funicular lurches upward, away from the station, accelerating.
Elin closes her eyes, but that only makes it worse. Every sound, every judder, is magnified behind her eyelids.
She opens her eyes to see the landscape flashing by: blurry streaks of snow‐covered vineyards, chalets, shops.
Her head swims. “I want to get out.”
“What?” Will turns. He tries to mask it, but she can hear the frustration in his voice.
“I need to get out.”
The funicular pulls into a tunnel. They plunge into darkness, and a woman whoops.
Elin breathes in, slowly, carefully, but she can feel it coming—that sense of impending doom. All at once, her blood feels sticky moving through her, yet also like it’s rushing everywhere at once.
More breaths. Slower, as she’d taught herself. In for four, hold, then out for seven.
It’s not enough. Her throat contracts. Her breath is coming shallow now, fast. Her lungs are fighting, desperately trying to drag in oxygen.
“Your inhaler,” Will urges. “Where is it?”
Scrabbling in her pocket, she pulls it out, pushes down: good. She presses again, feels the rush of gas hit the back of her throat, reach her windpipe.
Within minutes, her breathing regulates.
But when her head clears, they’re there, in her mind’s eye.
Her brothers. Isaac. Sam.
Images, on loop.
She sees soft child faces, cheeks smattered with freckles. The same wideset blue eyes, but while Isaac’s are cold, unnerving in their intensity, Sam’s fizz with energy, a spark that draws people in.
Elin blinks, unable to stop herself thinking about the last time she saw those eyes—vacant, lifeless, that spark . . . snuffed out.
She turns to the window, but can’t unsee the images from her past: Isaac, smiling at her; that familiar smirk. He holds up his hands, but the five splayed fingers are covered in blood.
Elin extends her hand, but she can’t reach him. She never can.
Reading Group Guide
1. The hotel at the heart of the novel, Le Sommet, was converted from a tuberculosis sanatorium. How do the building’s history and design shape the narrative? Would you choose to stay in a hotel with a history like Le Sommet’s? Why or why not?
2. How do you think the remote alpine setting helps to heighten the sense of claustrophobia and isolation both within the novel and within Elin’s own mind?
3. In order to solve the case, Elin must overcome her fear of water and learn how to control her panic attacks. What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with a particular fear or anxiety and wants to move past it?
4. Elin and her brother, Isaac, have a difficult relationship for much of the novel. How does their dynamic change over the course of the book? Do you think they navigate their relationship successfully throughout? What could they have done differently?
5. There are several strong female characters within the novel. Do you think the choice of a female detective as the protagonist is important to the novel and the themes it covers?
6. Elin discovering the real story behind her younger brother’s death forces her to confront some uncomfortable truths. Do you think deception can have a positive impact in certain circumstances, or does it only ever have negative consequences?
7. The past haunts Elin—in both her private and her professional spheres—when she arrives at Le Sommet. How does her personal history affect the decisions she makes throughout the novel?
8. Did you expect any of the reveals throughout the book? Did the ending surprise you? Why or why not?
9. The hotel’s past touches on an uncomfortable subject: the suppression and control of women’s lives and how people often choose to “look the other way” when faced with the evidence. To what extent do you still think that is still true today? Discuss.