Publication Date: June 30, 2020 ~ Genre: Mystery Thriller
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.
Reader beware! Spoilers ahead!
Gah! This book! It’s just so up my alley and I knew I would love every minute of it!
If you love stories about haunted houses, ghosts, and mysteries I think you’ll love this book.
I was so excited to get my hands on a new Riley Sager so it was a no-brainer pick for my BOTM. The book arrived at my door step and I waited a full 10 minutes before diving in.
Home Before Dark is told in two timelines. In the present we follow Maggie in adulthood as a home renovator, and in the past, we follow Maggie’s father Ewan, as he tells the tale of the House of Horrors through his book. Ewan’s narrative is supposed to be a nonfiction account of the experiences of his family’s 3 months living in the house prior to abruptly leaving, without any belongings, and never returning. Ewan’s book quickly becomes a best seller and the house, as well as it’s previous occupants, gain notoriety.
Maggie is more than a little skeptical of her father’s account. The reader learns of Maggie’s exhaustive attempts to get to the truth of the story throughout her life, and follows along as Maggie is repeatedly dismissed by her parents and given a generic response for each question she poses. Maggie blames the “Book” for the divorce of her parents and for a turbulent relationship with her father. The narrative is a dark cloud over the family, imposing and divisive.
To her surprise, Maggie inherits the house after her father’s death, and learns of his involvement over the years with the house long after her family supposedly left for good. Maggie decides to face her past and discover the truth once and for all, deciding to live in, renovate, and put the house up for sale. Maggie’s father’s dying words ring in her head as she opens the door to the house, “It’s not safe there, not for you.”
This book has so many twists and turns, at one point I was completely convinced the house was haunted and Ewan’s story was truth then at another, I believed it was all lies and someone was staging events. I was constantly on the edge of my seat just turning the pages, needing, like Maggie, to understand fact from fiction. Although, a couple of the twists may be fairly easy to spot, I didn’t fault the book for predictability. I just loved the ride!
Overall, I can see this book as a movie and it’s no surprise its already been optioned. I think it was only a matter of time before Hollywood discovered the magic of a Sager book. This is one of the few books I will keep and reread over the years for it’s ghosty goodness. In my opinion, it couldn’t be better; I give it all the stars!