Alan Orloff‘s Sanctuary Motel is an entertaining look at one guy’s honest, but somewhat bumbling attempt to help the down-and-out. Benjamin “Mess” Hopkins’ parents own the Fairfax Manor Inn, situated just north of Fairfax, VA. According to Mess, the inn is one of four “independent, rinky-dink motels within four miles” of each other on a stretch of Route 50. This mystery provides a chuckle as the reader gets pulled into the world of Mess and Vell.
In his early 30s, Mess Hopkins has lived most of his life at the Fairfax Motor Inn. When his parents abruptly get wanderlust, it’s up to Mess to manage the inn. Truth is, a good number of guests are the non-paying type—Mess has a kind heart and helps those less fortunate souls sent his way by Mama, mother of D’Marvellus “Vell” Jackson, both of whom are friends with Mess. Good thing for Cesar Ruiz, the operating manager of the Fairfax Manor Inn. Originally hired by Mess’s parents, he keeps the motel clean and decently maintained, among other things. All this despite Mess’s kind-hearted philanthropic gestures to the down-and-out.
After a brief introduction of the main characters, the book concentrates on Nicole and her son, Nick. Vell brings Nicole and Nick to the motel. But why does Nicole stay only a night or two at the Fairfax Motor Inn, then disappear? Why would she leave Nick behind and apparently not keep in contact with him? In fact, what brought about Nicole’s stark current circumstances? So, Mess and Vell hunt for Nicole.
I enjoyed Sanctuary Motel, for the most part. And I like the cover art. Mess and Vell are well drawn, as is Cesar, to a good degree. However, Nicole is almost a non-existent character. She plays a part in the setup of the story line, but fades out behind her son, Nick, and abusive husband, Todd Payton. More than a cozy mystery, but less than a thriller, Sanctuary Motel could have used slightly more punch. The final scene pitting Mess and Lia Katsaros, a journalist interested in the case, against her boss, Will “Shotgun” Stokes, was a letdown.
To purchase a copy, click here. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
by Alan Orloff
Level Best Books