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The Sanatorium: A Novel

The Sanatorium: A Novel

by Sarah Pearse

Narrated by Elizabeth Knowelden

Unabridged — 11 hours, 58 minutes

Sarah Pearse

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REESE'S BOOK CLUB PICK | A New York Times bestseller!

“An eerie, atmospheric novel that had me completely on the edge of my seat.” -Reese Witherspoon

“This spine-tingling, atmospheric thriller has it all¿ and twists you'll never see coming.” -Richard Osman, New York Times bestselling author of The Thursday Murder Club

Sarah Pearse's next book, The Retreat, is forthcoming.

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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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly


Pearse’s engrossing debut boasts a highly atmospheric setting. Le Sommet, originally a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients in the Swiss Alps, was abandoned for decades, until it was renovated as a luxury hotel. British police detective Elin Warner and her boyfriend, Willy Riley, come to Le Sommet at the invitation of her selfish brother, Isaac, a university lecturer in Lausanne, and his fiancée, Laure Strehl, to celebrate the couple’s engagement. The emotionally fragile Elin is on break from her job, following an intense case and the death of her mother, whose funeral Isaac was too busy to attend. When Laure goes missing the day after Elin and Willy’s arrival, Elin learns that others have disappeared from Le Sommet, long shrouded in sinister rumors about its patients’ brutal treatment. Might Isaac, whom she blames for the decades-old death of their brother, somehow be involved? The discovery of a body raises the stakes. Readers will applaud as Elin, for all her anxieties, emerges as a competent sleuth. This dark tale of family dynamics is sure to please suspense fans. Agent: Charlotte Seymour, Andrew Nurnberg Assoc. (Feb.)

From the Publisher

Praise for The Sanatorium:

“CHILLING! The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse is an eerie, atmospheric novel that had me completely on the edge of my seat. Let’s set the mood. . . . You’re in a remote location—at a hotel—and there’s a snowstorm. The winds are howling, the snow is pelting in every direction, there’s a missing person, and a dead body shows up!”
—Reese Witherspoon

“When guests at a five-star resort in the Alps disappear mid-blizzard, vacation’s over for detective Elin Warner. It’s The Shining but with a full house.”

“I devoured this in one sitting.”

“Creepy, deeply claustrophobic, mind-numbing, teasing, twists and turns galore, this book is a towering example of a masterful hand at work. If only Hitchcock were still around to film it.”
David Baldacci

“I absolutely loved The Sanatoriumit gave me all the wintry thrills and chills. It was just wonderful.”
—Lucy Foley, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Apartment

“Pearse’s The Sanatorium will keep you checking over your shoulder. This spine-tingling, atmospheric thriller has it all: an eerie Alpine setting, sharp prose, and twists you’ll never see coming. A must-read.”
—Richard Osman, international bestselling author of The Thursday Murder Club

“Sarah Pearse’s The Sanatorium is a knockout. Mesmerizing, lyrical prose contrasts starkly with the dark story events in this debut thriller set at a remote luxury hotel in the Swiss Alps. Tense, claustrophobic, with a horrific connection between past and present that is utterly unpredictable—I loved this book!” 
—Karen Dionne, #1 international bestselling author of The Wicked Sister

“Pearse’s engrossing debut boasts a highly atmospheric setting. . . . Readers will applaud as Elin, for all her anxieties, emerges as a competent sleuth. This dark tale of family dynamics is sure to please suspense fans.”
Publishers Weekly

“Pearse not only creates believably fallible characters, she also vividly portrays the frigid landscape of Le Sommet buffeted by blizzards, and a chilling epilogue cries out for a sequel. Crime-fiction readers will want to keep an eye on Pearse.”
Booklist (starred review)

The Sanatorium is an absolutely splendid Gothic thriller—gracious in its nods to the classic locked-room mystery, yet bold enough to burst out of that room through the window. Pearse writes prose fresh and crisp as Swiss Alp powder, and her characters fascinate even as their numbers dwindle.”
—A. J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window

“It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel, given how masterfully Sarah Pearse writes. The setting is starkly chilling, the characters are smart and vulnerable, and as you turn the pages, the slow creep of claustrophobia sets in. . . . Highly recommended.”
—Sarah Pekkanen, #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Wife Between Us

“Sarah Pearse’s chilling debut is making waves. . . . The Sanatorium certainly has an eerie, cinematic appeal. . . . Sinister scene well and truly set, unexplained disappearances commence, and dark family dynamics emerge, with quick chapters that keep pages turning. With whispers of The Shining in setting and The Girl on the Train in pace, it . . . will please fans of suspense. Either way, it’s crying out for a screen adaptation and provides a welcome, if unsettling, distraction from current events.”
Vanity Fair (UK)

“Slowly the dark secrets hidden in the sinister building emerge from the shadows. There are echoes of Hitchcock and du Maurier, but Pearse has her own distinctive, emotional voice—one to be admired.”
Daily Mail (London)

“The perfect claustrophobic setting packed with mystery and edge-of-your-seat tension.” 
—Natasha Preston, New York Times bestselling author of The Cellar

“Dark, suspenseful, and downright chilling, Pearse’s debut, The Sanatorium, is a triumph. Vividly set against the backdrop of the Swiss Alps, it had me on the edge of my seat from the first page. Pearse’s writing is sublime. Pearse has a big future ahead of her.”
—Sally Hepworth, bestselling author of The Mother-in-Law

The Sanatorium is definitely a debut novel to watch out for. What a chilling read! One of the creepiest thrillers I’ve ever read. So atmospheric, clever, and compulsive. LOVED it!”
—Claire Douglas, bestselling author of Last Seen Alive

“A superb debut offering an astonishingly creepy and isolated backdrop, great characters, tension, and twists. Hugely atmospheric with enough menace to keep you looking over your shoulder!”
—Sam Carrington, bestselling author of I Dare You

“A spine-tingling setting, an unnerving cast of characters, and so many incredibly creepy moments . . . This is not one to read before bed!”
—Elizabeth Kay, author of Seven Lies

“An incredible debut . . . Clever, creepy, and utterly compelling.”
—Samantha King, author of The Perfect Family

“A superbly atmospheric crime debut. Deliciously creepy and clever, it’s everything you could want in a thriller. Very highly recommended!”
—Simon Lelic, author of The Search Party

“An atmospheric thriller with the perfect claustrophobic setting. This is equal parts creepy, suspenseful, and gruesome—everything you could want in a novel for this genre. This is a surefire hit guaranteed to keep you seeing shadows in the snow on those freezing winter nights. I loved it.”
—C. J. Skuse, author of Sweetpea

“I loved it—such a wonderful sense of location, and the tension is knife edge–sharp. I was up at 5:30 in the mornings to read it.” 
—Michelle Adams, author of If You Knew My Sister

Product Details

BN ID: 2940177652627
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: 03/12/2022
Edition description: Unabridged

Read an Excerpt

Press Release – Under Embargo until midnight March 5th 2018
Le Sommet
Hauts de Plumachit
Crans Montana 3963
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.


January 2020
Day One

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:

Michel 2010
Bisous xxx
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. 

“You okay?”

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 intertwined, connected.

“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.

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