Thanks to NetGalley and Dutton Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: June 30th, 2020
Synopsis: 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 house 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 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 by Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint of a history filled with 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.
Alternating between Maggie’s uneasy homecoming and chapters from her father’s book, Home Before Dark is the story of a house with long-buried secrets and a woman’s quest to uncover them—even if the truth is far more terrifying than any haunting.
The first book I read by Riley Sager was Final Girls (2017), and with each book he writes he just keeps upping his game. Home Before Dark kept me up until the wee hours of the morning, had me nervously checking my pantry and linen closet as I walked by them, and has quite possibly ruined one of my favorite songs, Sixteen Going on Seventeen from The Sound of Music for me for life!
There are two stories at play here. The first takes place twenty-five years ago and is told through the book House of Horrors, by Ewan Holt, which is an account of the family’s twenty-two day ordeal in Baneberry Hall. The second takes place during the present day, and follows now thirty-year-old Maggie as she desperately tries to uncover the truth of what happened all those years before.
Maggie is somewhat aloof and remote, but given what her life has been like, who can blame her. She’s had Baneberry Hall following her around for most of her life, and to top things off she has no memories of her time there, and she’s positive her parents have lied to her and everyone else about what happened. It’s made her reluctant to trust anyone, yet I wound up quite liking her. She does have a compassionate side, and her determination to discover the truth, even when it upends her entire world, is something to be admired. I also liked Ewan, and while I disagree with some of his decisions, I understand how desperate he is to save his family. The secondary characters play small yet pivotal parts, and a couple of them have some quite interesting backstories that tie into Baneberry Hall.
The house itself almost becomes a character in its own right thanks to Sanger’s vivid details. I have a picture in my mind of not only what Baneberry Hall looks like, but what the atmosphere feels like after being the site of so many tragedies. There is more than one mystery that needs to be solved, and the path to the answers is a twisty one indeed. I thought by the midway point that I pretty much had everything figured out, only to be proved wrong multiple times. It drove me nuts, in the best kind of way!
Home Before Dark is a pulse-pounding, suspenseful tale of horror and mystery that will leave you questioning everything. It doesn’t have a lot of blood and gore in it, but this proves that you don’t always need those graphic elements to instill true terror. One word of caution: if you’re not a fan of snakes, they’re in here in all their creepy, slithery glory. For readers already familiar with Riley Sager, this is another knockout from him. For those who haven’t read his books, I guarantee that if you try this, you’ll immediately want to scoop up his others.