Wednesday, July 22, 2020

REVIEW: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Title: Home Before Dark
Author: Riley Sager
Genre: Thriller/Paranormal
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Release Date: May 5, 2020
Acquired: Purchased (hardcover)
Goodreads: ADD
Purchase: Amazon/Indigo/Book Depository

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.

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?

There were definitely 𝑯𝒊𝒍𝒍 𝑯𝒐𝒖𝒔𝒆 vibes throughout this one, but it was also dissimilar in ways that I wish it wasn't. I'd say I enjoyed 90% of the narrative, right up until an ending that left small holes still unpatched. Though I can completely understand Sager's appeal, his writing is immersive; his setting is almost tangible. I'd rate it a 4 on that alone, but his character development was lacking for me. Maggie was still too far from my reach to connect with, and her quest for the truth didn't have me cheering her on. However, this was a great one to pass a rainy afternoon with, I'd just suggest not reading it alone at night.

Read if you like:
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Key themes:
loss, family, childhood trauma, supernatural occurrences, family secrets

Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer.

Now a full-time writer, Riley is the author of FINAL GIRLS, an international bestseller that's been published in 25 languages, and the instant New York Times bestsellers THE LAST TIME I LIED, LOCK EVERY DOOR and HOME BEFORE DARK. His latest book, SURVIVE THE NIGHT, will be available June 29 from Dutton Books.

A native of Pennsylvania, he now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.