A key part of any novel is creating characters who the reader can relate to, who you want to root for, and in Sam and Abhi author Sunny Singh has done exactly that. The setting is the Hotel Arcadia, a luxurious hotel now rocked by violence as heavily armed men take control with brutal savagery. Abhi is the hotel manager who watches events unfold on his bank of CCTV cameras and helps co-ordinate the response. Sam is a photographer seeking rest from her latest conflict assignment but thrust into another.
The novel counts down events in the hotel siege through Abhi’s screens and Sam’s lens but the crucial element is our glimpse into the lives of these two hurting people and the growing relationship that develops between them. As their situation becomes more desperate they reach out to each other, and to the reader, to be understood.
The action all takes place in the confined space of the hotel. Sam photographs the dead for a living, it is a fascination for her, and she is driven out of the relative safety of her room to explore the devastation around her. Abhi is holed up in his office and provides the eyes for Sam, the security forces building up outside and the hotel guests who have evaded capture or death hidden in their rooms.
As the drama unfolds we are also taken back to scenes from their lives, events and people that have shaped them and their dreams and brought them to this place. The action is well managed as the chapters tick off the hours of the siege with the flashbacks interspersed to connect us to the key protagonists and build our emotional attachment, revealing wounds and opening up vulnerability.
It is a well-constructed, well written novel that opens up questions about what forms us as people, what breaks us and also what heals. The jeopardy of their situation makes Sam and Abhi evaluate their lives, what and who really matters, and how they might move forwards, if events will even allow them lives beyond the terror that surrounds them. It is striking how a crisis can change perspective, turn priorities on their head, and maybe we can all learn from their experience, rather than waiting for our own tipping point.
Hotel Arcadia is a character driven thriller filled with a violence that we hope never to meet face to face, but most of all it is a window into other lives which provides a reflection into our own. If Sam and Abhi make it out alive they will have changed, more deeply conscious of the wounds they have received and inflicted and more able to heal both. Prepare to enter the hotel of your dreams to live out a nightmare, but if you make it out alive will you be the same?
Hotel Arcadia is published by Quartet Books and is out now. You can find out more about Sunny Singh and her work at her website www.sunnysingh.net