Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Home Before Dark

Home Before Dark
by Riley Sager


402 Pages

Published by Hodder & Stoughton (30th June 2020)

Purchase From | Booktopia | Fishpond AU* | Book Depository | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon UK |

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My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Actual rating of 4.5

Twenty five years ago, Maggie Holt moved into Baneberry Hall with her parents, Ewan and Jess, a huge estate in the Vermont Woods. They resided there for three weeks before fleeing unexpectedly in the middle of the night, leaving behind all of their belongings. Later, Ewan would blame their hasty exit on the fact that Baneberry Hall was haunted, he detailed the events in a best selling novel titled House of Horrors, which became a worldwide phenomenon.

Today, Maggie Holt is a restorer of old homes, she’s too young to remember the events that transpired in Baneberry Hall, but she’s sick of hearing about them. Having been asked her whole life “What was it like living there?” she’s been able to construct a generic answer that leaves most people disappointed. After her father passes, she inherits Baneberry Hall, and with only the warning to “not go there.” from her dying father, she of course heads off to restore the place and hopefully sell it. What she doesn’t count on is the animosity from the locals, the super fans that lurk in the shadows, and the possibility that maybe her father was right all along.

This was my first Riley Sager novel and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. This story is told through alternating chapters, the first from Maggie Holt’s point of view, and the second as chapters from the best selling novel House of Horrors, that her father wrote about their time in the house. I felt that this was the best instance of a book inside a book that I have ever seen, and it really served to give information while making you wonder what exactly was really going on. I think I’ll be hard pressed to find another book that does this so well.

I really enjoyed the character of Maggie, her whole life has been shaped by the book that her father wrote, a book that heavily centers around her, yet she remembers barely anything of what was written. I felt her frustration at being essentially kept in the dark, yet I also felt frustrated at her for not even considering that any part of what her father claimed could be true. She’s not an unreliable narrator as such, but I honestly went through the entire book not knowing what to believe – was the supernatural at play here? Or was it something more mundane? It kept me guessing right up until the very end and I applaud Sager for this. I enjoyed all of the characters, past and present, that we meet in this story. All of them jumped right off the page and had such a deep sense of realism to them, all of them fully formed with distinct personalities and voices.

The story itself I thoroughly enjoyed. I think it was so well thought out, and I couldn’t even begin to imagine attempting to right a story in this format. Sager has essentially written two stories that converge into one big story and I have no idea how all of the threads were kept perfectly lined up and still making sense. The mystery was a doozy and I honestly did not know which way it was going to head, it was so well thought out and executed. It kept me guessing until the very end, which these days, can be difficult. I felt that the final big reveal was amazing and it was one of those “Oh my god!” *gasp* moments that I live for.

Sager did a fantastic job at really building up a strong atmosphere that was both creepy, isolating and oppressive. I have no idea how Maggie stayed in the house by herself, and I found myself constantly berating her for knocking back her restoring partners offer of assistance on the house in the beginning. Though by the end, I understood that it was because this was a journey that Maggie had to take alone, it was finally time to bring to light the truth of what happened in her youth and no one could hold her hand as she walked that path. I still wish she had have taken the offer of help though. As the story unfolded and the threads began to line up to paint the real picture of what transpired all those years ago, it was like a slow dawning of horror for me, and I am here for it, and not necessarily the kind of horror you’re thinking. Trust me, it’ll make sense when you read it. One part really had me both feeling immensely sorry for Maggie while at the same time not really wanting anything to do with her.

All in all, this was a fantastic read that really brought the creep factor. It’s hard to find unique stories in the horror genre, and I feel that Sager does a brilliant job of carving out a special niche for these stories. I would recommend this book purely for the book in book format alone, I would have purchases House of Horrors for sure. I don’t want to go into too much detail of anything because I feel like this is a story better experienced as it slowly unfolds before you, giving you crumbs of information to make of what you will, until near the end when it throws the entire cake in your face and you’re left sputtering frosting all over the floor. Highly recommend.

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