The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

The basics

Title: The Sanatorium


Series: Detective Elin Warner #1

- The Sanatorium (2020)
- The Retreat (2022)

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Goodreads Summary:

An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she's taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother's recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it's beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous - as does her brother, Isaac.

And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin's unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

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're all in . . .

Read a full summary of The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse below. If you can’t remember what happened in The Sanatorium and you need a refresher, then you’re in the right place.

What happened in The Sanatorium?

  • Elin is travelling to a hotel with her boyfriend, Will. They’re heading to a hotel in Switzerland for Elin’s brother’s engagement party. Elin’s brother Isaac is marrying someone called Laure, who Elin was friends with when she was younger.
  • Elin doesn’t have the best relationship with Isaac. They haven’t spoken in years and their mother has now passed away so the siblings aren’t very close.
  • The hotel in Switzerland used to be an old sanatorium. A rich guy has done it up and is turning it into a fancy spa hotel. The architect who helped design the building has gone missing.
  • From another point of view, we see a woman called Adele who is captured by someone.
  • Elin will Isaac and Laure are supposed to go for dinner that evening but Isaac and Laure don’t show up. Elin becomes annoyed because her brother is always doing this. We learned that Elin and Isaac had another brother called Sam who died when they were children.
  • Elin and will return to their room. Elliot he spots Laure speaking French near her balcony.. Laure seems quite angry.
  • The next morning Elin spots Isaac who tells her that Laure is missing. Elin used to be a detective who’s currently on a break from work so Isaac is hoping that Elin will be able to help find his fiancée.
  • Elin doesn’t trust her brother Isaac. When she is in his room she sees some blood spots on the floor and she thinks that he has done something to Laure.
  • Isaac calls the police but the weather is getting worse and it’s starting to snow a lot. There’s an avalanche warning and so the police are unable to get up to the hotel. The guests start to be evacuated.
  • Just as the last bus is about to leave, the group learns that an avalanche has taken place and the road is now blocked.
  • A body is found in the swimming pool. It’s the lady called Adele from the start of the book. Isaac is relieved that it’s not Laure, but this does mean that Laure is still missing.
  • Elin blocks the other guests and the staff members from looking at Adele’s body.
  • We do learn that Adele is missing some fingers – they have been cut off.
  • A hike was walking up the mountain before the weather got bad. He found a dismembered body under the snow. It’s the architect, Daniel, who when missing a while ago.
  • Elin starts investigating. She gets in touch with the local police but they are unable to help because of the bad weather and the road being blocked so they give her some advice.
  • Elin searches Laure’s laptop and finds some encrypted files which she sends to one of her friends from the UK. The guy sends the files back really quickly and Elin is able to read through them. She finds some articles and some information about the hotel and it seems as though it’s information that could be used to blackmail the hotel owner, Lucas.
  • Elin speaks to Lucas and finds out that he was in a very brief relationship with Laure while she and Isaac were on a break. Apparently they cut things off quite a while ago though.
  • Will is trying to get Elin to relax because she is getting quite stressed out. They spend some time in the hot tub together but Will becomes annoyed and so he leaves her alone. Elin is then pushed into a pool and freaks out because she doesn’t like water.
  • Lucas has been receiving notes that are quite threatening – the writer is threatening to reveal all of his secrets.
  • Elin receives a message supposedly from Laure and she goes to meet her but instead she finds Laure’s body and she is attacked by someone who is quite big and strong.
  • Elin’s attacker runs off when they hear Will coming. Elin finds a USB memory stick on Laura’s body.
  • Elin is still pretty sure the Isaac has done something to Laure because she thinks the Isaac is the one who killed their brother Sam when they were kids.
  • We learn that Elin is on a break from her detective work because she messed up a case. She ran after the perpetrator when she should have waited for backup, and he attacked her and almost killed her in the water.
  • Elin puts some pieces together and figures out that Margot is behind the killings. Margot attacks Will and Sara has to stitch him up, and then Margot disappears.
  • Isaac finally tells Elin what really happened when they were children. It turns out that Elin was the one that was with Sam when he fell into the rock pool and hit his head. Apparently Elin was paralysed with fear or shock and wasn’t able to help her brother. Elin starts to put the pieces together and realises that this is why her parents were acting strange towards her. She thinks that her parents blamed her for Sam’s death.
  • Elin goes to speak to Lucas and Cecile. Elin and Lucas go and investigate a tunnel. There they find Margot’s body hanging – it seems as though Margot is working with someone else. Lucas leaves Elin behind and disappears.
  • Elin then heads back to go to speak to Cecile. She starts to put two and two together and realises that Cecile is the one who is behind all of these killings and has been working with Margot.
  • Turns out that Cecile was raped by the architect, Daniel – he was a family friend. Cecile also blames her brother Lucas because he was present when the rape happened and also he didn’t backup Cecile he didn’t backup Cecile or defend her.
  • Cecile decided to help Margot kill a bunch of people because Margot’s great grandmother was taken to the sanatorium and was killed there. Cecile thought this would be good revenge for her brother and Daniel. Lucas knew what was going on at the sanatorium and there were old grave sites there. Lucas was covering a lot of things up.
  • Elin manages to stop Cecile and save the day.
  • Elin stays in Switzerland for a few weeks with her brother Isaac. Then she decides to return to work as a detective.
  • Someone is watching Elin right at the end…

This is a full plot summary of what happened in The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse. Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!

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