Author Sarah sets debut thriller around Torbay detective

Torbay author Sarah Pearse

Torbay author Sarah Pearse - Credit: Archant

Torbay author Sarah Pearse is attracting global attention in the literary world ahead of the release of her first novel, The Sanatorium.

A chilling crime thriller set in the mystical mountains of Switzerland, The Sanatorium follows the story of detective Elin Warner, who just happens to be a detective from Devon.

From her childhood as a pupil at Oldway Primary and Torquay Girls’ Grammar School, the writing bug has always been bubbling under the surface for mum-of-two Sarah.

“I have always loved writing,” said Sarah. “I studied English literature and creative writing at Warwick University but it was actually the first year of the creative writing course.

“I retained the passion for writing and started with short stories. I wrote a few pieces when I lived in Switzerland, where I worked as a buyer for Procter & Gamble, and these stories were published in a women’s magazine.

“It helped to fulfil my need to write but wasn’t initially something I considered as a career. It was when I had my two daughters that I started writing more regularly and managed to pick up some recognition.

“I was long-listed in the Bristol Short Story Prize, which is a quite a prestigious award, and then more short stories published in a range of magazines. From there, I first considered the idea of writing a novel.

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“The Sanatorium was sent out to a number of literary agents and had three different offers. It was then distributed to publishers and I was obviously delighted to receive an offer from Penguin.

“The Sanatorium has been described as a crime novel and a gothic thriller. It is based on Elin Warner, who works for a crime team in Exeter but lives in Torbay, so it is a fictionalised version of Torbay.

“She travels from Torbay to her brother’s wedding in Switzerland at a minimalist hotel that has been converted from an old sanitorium. Within a day of arrival, her brother’s fiancé goes missing but Elin is on a career break and at a location where she has no jurisdiction.

“The snow begins to fall and they become trapped in a hotel with the guests and a series of murders occur, leaving it down to Elin to solve the case.

“Agatha Christie is a huge inspiration for me and amazing to think that she was inspired by this part of the world. The second book will be based around Thatcher Rock and I wanted to feature real places around Torbay, along with some fictionalised locations.

“The draft has now gone out to my agent for the second book, while The Sanitorium is due for hardback in February. It is very exciting, and nerve-wracking, because the novel is also going out for reviews.”

Combining the excitement of her first major steps in the literary world with responsibilities as a mum was particularly challenging for Sarah during lockdown but, whatever the circumstances, she is encouraging anyone with a creative streak to keep pursuing their dreams.

Sarah said: “Lockdown was a crazy time for everyone and a lot of my writing was squeezed into weekends and evenings.

“We live in Torquay and thankfully, now the kids have gone back to school, there is more time for work. I do plenty of exercise and find this a great time to get my thoughts together, working out plots and developing characters. We also have a beach hut at Preston and I find that a great place to think about the book.

“For any youngster who loves to write or has a passion for the arts, just follow your dreams because there are ways to find a career in the creative industries. If it is something you are meant to do, you will find a way.”