Name: Home Before Dark
Author: Riley Sager
Number of Pages: 402 (ebook)
Published: September 17th 2020 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Thriller, Horror, Mystery
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?
“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 non-fiction 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.
Home Before Dark tells the story of Maggie Holt, a women who finds herself drawn back to Baneberry Hall, a place that briefly featured in her childhood but from which she never fully escaped as her father turned their brief time there into a bestselling work of supposed non-fiction entitled House of Horrors. Maggie and her family apparently endured a real life haunting and fled from Baneberry Hall, leaving all their possessions behind.
And now Maggie must return to make the property fit for sale and hopefully find some answers about things in the past.
I enjoyed the book within a book, the way the story goes between the two narratives, gradually revealing bits and pieces of history, truth, fact and fiction as Maggie pieces together what really happened in Baneberry Hall during the very short period that her family lived there when she was young.
The story keeps you guessing because Maggie is utterly convinced that everything her father wrote was made up, and that none of it could possibly have happened, yet there are hints in her present day experiences that at least some of it is true, so when things start to get slightly ghostly, and history seems to be repeating, you can never be sure what is behind it. Is it a ghostly presence residing in this old, history/tragedy-laden house, or is there someone more worldly who would want to make it appear that Baneberry Hall is haunted?
The house itself is great. I always enjoy it when the house becomes something of a character in its own right in these stories, and Baneberry Hall does in both narratives, with it’s vast spaces, lights that seem to turn on of their own free will, haunting portraits overseeing everything, a dark and tragic past, noises in the night and an array of other secrets that come to light gradually. Such is the atmosphere of the place that even Maggie starts to question whether there may have been more truth to her father’s book than she ever suspected.
The suspense builds nicely as Maggie remains determined to find out what happened all those years ago, why her family ended up leaving Baneberry Hall so abruptly, and just what is going on. The revelations drive the pace of the story towards the latter part, and many of them were not what I’d imagined at all. Many little threads join together to form a tale that spans years and draws in a number of people from the local community.
Home Before Dark proved to be a great read for when the nights are drawing in. A possibly haunted house complete with a tragic history and enough spooky goings-on to make anyone believe that a family would flee in the night, and a mystery that kept me turning the pages in search of answers.