Grief is tricky like that. It can lie low for hours, long enough for magical thinking to take hold. Then, when you’re good and vulnerable, it will leap out at you like a fun-house skeleton, and all the pain you thought was gone comes roaring back.Riley Sager
Release Date: June 30, 2020
Genre(s): Thriller, Mystery
Publisher: Dutton Books
What was it like? Living in that house.
Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.
Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.
In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls?
There weren’t any authors I’d auto-buy from until I read this book. I’ve now read three out of four of Riley Sager’s books (I haven’t got to The Last Time I Lied yet), and I can confidently say that I will pick up anything he writes now. I can’t get enough spooky twists and turns. Sager truly surprises me every single time. I wanted to squeeze this book into the last two days of June, and at first, I wasn’t sure that would be possible, but once I started reading this book, I didn’t want to put it down. I had to know what scary thing was going to happen next.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. It alternates between the present Maggie returning to her childhood home and chapters of the book her father wrote about their short time there. I’m a sucker for unusual narrative structures, and this book certainly delivers on that. The chapters from her father’s book vary in how reliable they are as the present-day plot continues, and you’re never sure what’s real and what isn’t until the end. It’s a thriller that I could definitely reread in light of the ending.
In addition to the chapters from the past not being reliable, our narrator isn’t reliable either. Maggie doesn’t remember anything from the twenty days she lived at Baneberry Hall, and it truly feels like you are piecing everything together with her. You never feel like she knows more than you, and that added so much to the excitement.
Home Before Dark scared me in a way books never do, and as I’m writing this review, I keep hearing noises in my house and looking over my shoulder. It’s so creepy! I almost always get scared by movies but never from books; this really did it for me. Music from nowhere, eerie shadows, thudding noises all create an atmosphere that I felt like I was a part of the entire time. Not to mention that one scene with the snakes! I definitely recommend this book to people who like to be a little scared but maybe don’t pick it up right before bed 😉