“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.
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.”
Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated books of 2020 with you – Home Before Dark by Riley Sager. Home Before Dark was published by Dutton Books on 30th June 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I was far too impatient for Home Before Dark to make an appearance in the UK so my wonderful children bought me a US hardcover copy for my birthday 🥰.
I absolutely adore Final Girls by Riley Sager. It’s one of my favourite books EVER and I always make a point of recommending it to everyone (my family are understandably quite fed up with my obsession!). So I make a point of reading everything this author publishes, as a matter of urgency. Sager is a great writer but so far nothing has quite come close to the feeling reading Final Girls gave me. Until I picked up my copy of Home Before Dark, that is!
Maggie Holt is a household name for all the wrong reasons. Escaping, as a child, from a haunted house in the dead of night with her family can do that. Not helped by her writer-father turning their terrifying ordeal into a bestseller. Except Maggie remembers next to nothing of what happened at Baneberry Hall, Bartleby, Vermont. And surely something like that would be hard to forget. Following her father’s death, Maggie discovers the family still owns Baneberry Hall, and the crumbling estate has been left to her in her father’s will. Determined to put the past to rest, prove ‘House of Horrors’ was all lies and rid herself of the feeling of uncertainty, Maggie returns to renovate the house with a view to selling it. But what she discovers on her return is more shocking and more terrifying than she ever imagined…
I am completely smitten with Maggie Holt and I loved Home Before Dark. It’s a wonderfully eerie read which held my attention from beginning to end and one I really looked forward to returning to on the odd occasion I had to put the book to one side. The story is told in the present from Maggie’s point of view as we see her experience Baneberry Hall as an adult, only having knowledge of the place garnered from her father’s book. And also from the past via chapters from Ewan Holt’s bestseller ‘House of Horrors’. I particularly loved the way the two different view points were presented in the hardcover copy I read with different fonts and formatting. It really added to the reading experience for me and I found it easy to flit between the then and the now. I found myself looking forward to each new chapter and the palpable rising tension as this wonderfully creepy story progressed.
I never really knew what was going to happen next in Home Before Dark. Each new twist and turn, each new ghostly happening took me completely by surprise and I savoured every moment. I became so invested in Maggie’s pursuit of what she felt was the truth that I would have loved this book no matter what the conclusion was. The finale, however, is perfect and I found it very satisfying. There was only one point where I could see what was going to happen from a mile off but I certainly hadn’t worked everything out and there were plenty more surprises to come!
Baneberry Hall was the perfect setting for this spooky novel and the author has done a superb job of painting a very clear picture of the house with his words. The neighbouring town, full of angry and hurt locals who had to live with the negativity surrounding the Hall, was also very well drawn and really added to the atmosphere of the book.
Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved Home Before Dark and I think it will stay with me for some time to come. I’ve come to expect a lot from Sager’s novels (thanks to the magnificent brilliance that is Final Girls) and although I doubt any book (by any author) will ever come close to Final Girls in my eyes, Home Before Dark gets a lot closer than most. It’s absolutely marvellous and I expect it will feature on my ‘top reads of 2020’ list. I loved Home Before Dark and highly recommend you give it a go if you’re not afraid of things that go bump (or in this case THUD – tap, tap, tap…) in the night. Chilling, engaging and deliciously tense. Highly recommended.
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager was published by Dutton Books on 30th June 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.com | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |
Riley Sager is a pseudonym for an author who has been previously published under another name. A native of Pennsylvania, Riley is a writer, editor and graphic designer who now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
Riley’s first novel, FINAL GIRLS (called “The first great thriller of 2017” by Stephen King), was published in 2017 in the United States, the United Kingdom and more than twenty countries around the world.