Review: THE OTTOMAN MOTEL by Christopher Currie

Simon Sawyer is 11 years old when he and his parents travel to Reception, a small town on the east coast of Australia, to visit Simon’s grandmother who the family have been estranged from for some years. On the advice of one of the locals Simon’s parents decide to do some sightseeing before their visit to grandma and Simon stays at their motel by himself. He dozes off when he wakes at 10:00pm that night he realises his parents have not returned and he soon learns that no one has seen them since the afternoon. He is taken in by a widowed B&B owner who has an odd collection of family and guests.

As a born and bred city girl it is the small town with its thin veneer of civility hiding an evil heart that is always guaranteed to scare me witless and Currie has created yet another atmospheric excuse for me to stay safely within the confines of my anonymous urban sprawl. Reception is not the kind of town tourist bureaus would highlight, harbouring all manner of dark secrets and people who have fled other, mostly problem-filled lives to settle there. There’s a real sinister mood to the novel as readers are introduced to a succession of gloomy characters such as the ageing and secretive crab fisherman, the guilt-ridden policewoman, the widowed B&B owner and his peculiar children. This family takes in Simon while the search for his parents gets underway which introduces Simon to his grandmother, a permanent guest at the B&B and yet another Reception resident with secrets to hide.

I’m not a huge fan of books which feature children as main characters as they are often given more adult traits than the average kid. However Simon is believably drawn, capturing the mixture of burgeoning independence and fear at possibly being all alone in the world quite beautifully. His interactions with the B&B owner’s two children, still recovering from the loss of their mother several years earlier, and Pony, an orphan boy who lives there too, are also very believable. These relationships and the children’s’ reactions to unfolding events add an interesting perspective to this story which is, in essence, the opposite of the more traditional missing child mystery.

The story itself is good though for me it was a slightly weaker element of the book than the excellent characters and atmosphere. Although I found it compelling enough to want to read on quickly there were just a few too many implausible happenings for me to be wholly sucked in. The resolution in particular was not quite as satisfying as I’d have liked; I didn’t mind the loose ends but felt a little cheated by the very vaguely described outcome of the main plot thread. Overall though I thought this a solid debut novel and will be keen to read more from its young author. Its mixture of influences, which clearly include some horror and science fiction in addition to mysteries, and evocative writing style made for a quick, engaging and unpredictable read.

THE OTTOMAN MOTEL has been reviewed at Cally Jackson Writes and The Book Nerd Club

I first came across THE OTTOMAN MOTEL via this interview with the author at my favourite Australian news site

My rating: 3.5/5 stars (rating scale is explained here)
Author website:
Publisher: Text Publishing [2011]
ISBN: 9781921758164
Length: 290 pages
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: borrowed from the library

11 thoughts on “Review: THE OTTOMAN MOTEL by Christopher Currie

  1. I might try this novel as I’ve previously enjoyed Stephen King’s books that address these themes (many years ago!) eg The Stand and Salem’s Lot. I like the Crikey website too and have subscribed to the “literary minded” blog there. I don’t suppose this book will be out in the UK any time soon but I’ll keep an eye open. Thanks for the review.


  2. PS Just checked out UK Amazon. The book is available (amazingly!) but costs £30 so I have bookmarked it as experience shows that a price this high tends to plummet after a while, and/or a Kindle version might be on the cards.


  3. Hope the book does become available at a reasonable price Maxine…would happily send a copy but I baulked at the price here myself and borrowed it from the library.

    Funny you should mention Stephen King because I did think of one of his short stories The Body (filmed as Stand By Me) as I read this one…the strong relationships that kids can develop struck a similar chord. Plus there was a definite creepy vibe to the town


  4. Bernadette – Excellent review – Thanks for it 🙂 This book really does sound as though the moody atmosphere and the characters carry the day. As I think about what you’ve written I have to agree that it’s very difficult to make a child narrator in a story work well. I’ve read some books where the author did a good job of that, but not many. I’m glad this one worked in that way for you.


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  6. Thanks for linking to my review of this book. It’s interesting to hear someone else’s take on it. I agree that many books written for adults that have a child protagonist can become clunky (just like this sentence!), but this book does a good job of it. I could feel Simon’s terror at his situation quite acutely.

    Another book that does an amazing job of having a child protagonist is Room by Emma Donahue. It’s told from the perspective of a five-year-old boy called Jack, and I found his voice to be 100% believable. If you haven’t read it, I thoroughly recommend it (but I warn you, it’s a bit disturbing).


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