Hotel Arcadia by Sunny Singh

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Hotel Arcadia by Sunny Singh

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: More character drama than thriller, this is a tense, descriptive book.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: March 2024
Publisher: Magpie
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780861547425

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The Hotel Arcadia is a luxury hotel in an unnamed city that has suddenly been violently taken over by a terrorist group. Hiding from the terrorists who are rampaging through, killing everyone on site, there is Sam, a wartime photographer and Abhi, the hotel manager. As Abhi continues to try to care remotely for the residents who are still alive in the hotel, he forms a bond with Sam who refuses to be cowed by events, and keeps on venturing out of her room to try to capture what's happened through her photography. Although they only ever talk over the phone, their friendship grows as Abhi tries to help her keep safe and they both wait to see if they will be rescued before they are discovered by the terrorists.

Although labelled a thriller, I found the pace was generally slow throughout this book. If you're expecting thrilling events and the action of Die Hard in a hotel then you'll be disappointed. This is more quiet, tense conversations and a slow-growing dread. With Sam creeping through corridors, and the tense moments of her finding and capturing on film the dead bodies through the hotel, this wasn't quite the high octane page turner I had expected! But the writing is lyrical and descriptive, and as I read it felt more literary fiction to me than thriller, and I did find myself engaged in the story.

So instead of a book of high action shoot-outs, the story looks more at people and life expectations, such as those placed upon Sam for the type of photography she should be making, to the type of life she should be leading, and then for Abhi with the familial expectations of an army career like his father's that he did not want, to his secret homosexuality and his guilt over the collapse of his relationship with his brother and his parents. I think these flashes through to Sam and Abhi's past are what slows the pace of the book, but these are also the parts that add layers to these characters and make them more interesting.

I liked that the story is vague enough that you never actually know where in the world it is taking place. It's enough to know there are troubles, and it is the people who matter, not where they are from. I also liked that we know nothing about the terrorists, and that really the story has nothing to do with them. It is merely their actions that have initiated the story, and they don't really feature for most of the story. Abhi, I warmed to immediately, but it was Sam I was less sure about. I think I quite quickly understood Abhi's character, but Sam I found difficult and prickly. I liked the descriptions of how she copes in hotels after being in war zones, and the measures she takes to try to make herself feel safe. But I struggled more with the photographs that she chooses to take, of people who have died, and her character felt difficult to understand and somewhat remote, whereas Abhi seemed more likeable.

The ending left me feeling a little dissatisfied. Without giving too much away, I'd expected more completion to the events. Things do become increasingly tense, and there's much more of a sense of danger towards the end, but I would have liked more resolution. I think if you're looking for something exciting, you probably need another book, but if a story that is tense and full of flashbacks, with some lovely writing is you're sort of thing, then this will be a good choice.

You might also like to try The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway or City of Strangers by Ian Mackenzie

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