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Review

Home Before Dark

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Publication Date: June 30, 2020 ~ Genre: Mystery Thriller

Synopsis:

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.

Thoughts:

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! 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Review

The Guest List

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Release: June 2, 2020 ~ Genre: Mystery Thriller ~ Book acquired through Book of the Month early release.

Synopsis

A wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie from the author of The Hunting Party.

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why? 

Review

I struggled putting together a review for this one. As a mystery/thriller, I feel like most info can be considered a spoiler. However, here are my non-spoilery thoughts. 
I find it difficult to read books when I don’t like any of the characters and I hesitated picking this up because I heard all the characters in this book were unlike-able. Happily, I found this not to be true. I did like two of the characters especially and found myself rooting for them throughout the twists and turns of this story. I think many readers may find they identify with some aspect of these two characters, seemingly on the outskirts of the friend group, and will hang on perilously with them while hoping for a gratifying ending.
For me, the pacing of this book was slow to start but built quickly and became very exciting and unputdownable towards the end. I didn’t find the major twists predictable and I liked the buildup to the finale. 

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I did have a couple of issues with the plot but overall, really enjoyed this one! It was a fun ride.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️