#BookReview: The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager @DuttonBooks #TheHouseAcrosstheLake #damppebbles

“Be careful what you watch for . . .

Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of bourbon, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple living in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is powerful; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.

One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage isn’t as perfect as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey immediately suspects Tom of foul play. What she doesn’t realize is that there’s more to the story than meets the eye—and that shocking secrets can lurk beneath the most placid of surfaces.

Packed with sharp characters, psychological suspense, and gasp-worthy plot twists, Riley Sager’s The House Across the Lake is the ultimate escapist read . . . no lake house required.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The House Across the Lake by the master, Riley Sager. The House Across the Lake will be published by Dutton Books next week (that’s Tuesday 21st June 2022) in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow at a later date. I chose to read a free eARC of The House Across the Lake but that has in no way influenced my review.

Riley Sager is without doubt one of my favourite authors. Time and time again Sager delivers hit after hit, starting with the superb Final Girls in 2017. Every single book has been brilliantly entertaining and utterly compelling. I know because I’ve read them all! Getting hold of the latest Riley Sager novel is the absolute highlight of my year. So when the opportunity presented itself to read The House Across the Lake, I, of course, jumped at the chance!

Grief stricken actor Casey Fletcher needs time away from the hustle and bustle of city life, and the intrusion of the paparazzi, to mourn the death of her husband. Her mother suggests time at the family lake house in Vermont, which Casey reluctantly agrees to. Whilst enjoying a drink on the porch she notices her new neighbours, Tom and Katherine Royce, across the lake in their glass fronted house. Aided by a pair of high-spec binoculars Casey is able to get up close and personal in the Royce’s lives, watching from afar, becoming more and more obsessed with the couple. Then Katherine disappears without a trace, and things just don’t add up for Casey. She suspects Tom has something to do with the ex-supermodel’s disappearance – she just can’t prove it. What Casey doesn’t realise is that there is more to Katherine’s disappearance than meets the eye…

The House Across the Lake is another superb novel from the great Riley Sager. Utterly compelling from the moment the reader meets Casey, totally absorbing from start to finish and near impossible to put down (I grrr in your face adulting!). I tore through this book in a couple of short sittings keen to know where Sager was going to take this twisty tale. And oh my goodness, the twists the author throws at the reader are beautifully executed, they took my breath away at times! Perfectly placed, taking the reader by the hand, then BOOM! Delivered with Sager’s trademark finesse.

Casey is the most perfect unreliable narrator I have met in a LONG time. She likes a drink (she’s definitely an alcoholic!) but she firmly believes she is NOT an alcoholic (she’s an alcoholic!) and is always looking for her next tipple. I did find the numerous references to needing a drink a little wearing at times but I completely understand why the author mentioned her craving so often. It makes her believable. Casey would never call herself an addict but the reader knows the cold hard truth.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The House Across the Lake is a delicious slow burn mystery with a glorious unreliable narrator which I found thoroughly entertaining. The characters are all very well-written and helped move the story along nicely. Despite its beauty in the Summer months, the setting has an eeriness to it, a creepy edge, which gave me the shivers. The plot, as I’ve come to expect from this author, is very compelling and hooks the reader in from early on. I really enjoyed how Sager has used the movie Rear Window as his inspiration for this book but given it a modern twist and dialled up the tension ten-fold! All in all another superb book from a must read author. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of The House Across the Lake. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager was published by Dutton Books on 21st June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. The UK version of The House Across the Lake will be published by Hodder & Stoughton on 7th July 2022. I have included purchase links for both here but 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 | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Riley Sager

Riley Sager is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels, most recently SURVIVE THE NIGHT and HOME BEFORE DARK. His first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Hardcover Novel and has been published in more than thirty countries. His latest novel, THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE, will be published in June.

A native of Pennsylvania, he now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favourite film is “Rear Window.” Or maybe “Jaws.” But probably, if he’s being honest, “Mary Poppins.”

#BookReview: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager @DuttonBooks #HomeBeforeDark #damppebbles

home before dark“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 |


pseudonymRiley 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.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BookReview: UNSUB by Meg Gardiner @DuttonBooks #UNSUB #20BooksofSummer #DetectiveCaitlinHendrix

unsub cover.jpg

“A riveting psychological thriller inspired by the never-caught Zodiac Killer, about a young detective determined to apprehend the serial murderer who destroyed her family and terrorized a city twenty years earlier.

Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An UNSUB—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case.

The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career.

Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession.

Determined to decipher his twisted messages and stop the carnage, Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings as she draws closer to the killer with each new gruesome murder. Is it a copycat, or can this really be the same Prophet who haunted her childhood? Will Caitlin avoid repeating her father’s mistakes and redeem her family name, or will chasing the Prophet drag her and everyone she loves into the depths of the abyss?”

You may be wondering why I haven’t featured a #20BooksofSummer review on damppebbles for a few weeks. It’s because I’m totally failing at the challenge! It’s official, I have lost my reading mojo. Not only that, I have lost my reviewing mojo too. What do you do in times of fading mojo? You find a book you know you will LOVE. Something that will give you that spark back, reignite your passion and put your worries to one side. So that’s exactly what I did.

Except it didn’t work as well as I had planned. Sometimes you just get a feeling about a book; you know you’re going to love it (and I mean LOVE IT!) before you make a start. That’s how I felt about Unsub by Meg Gardiner. It has everything I want from a book; serial killers, a kick ass female lead, blood and gore galore, it’s American – set in gorgeous San Francisco, it’s had some scorching hot reviews and I have coveted it for what feels like a flipping long time. And I really enjoyed it. I just didn’t love it as I had expected to. I truly wanted to love it but I’m going to have to go with ‘I really liked it’ and be satisfied with that. No one’s fault but mine.

Caitlin Hendrix is a woman on a mission to hell. Prolific serial killer, The Prophet, destroyed her family and her father twenty years ago only to seemingly disappear into thin air. Now he’s back and this time his sights are set firmly on newly qualified Caitlin. The body count is rising. Can Caitlin do what her father, Mack, failed to do all those years ago and put a stop to The Prophet’s murderous spree?

I don’t need to tell you that I loved Caitlin Hendrix. That goes without saying. She’s tough, gun-toting and determined to solve the crime. Everything I love in a female protagonist. I also really enjoyed her relationship with her father, which is a cornerstone of the story. There’s blame, there’s guilt and there’s a heck of a lot of anger there. It’s clear Caitlin had a very different childhood from her peers, with a father who was drowning in his failure and gradually falling apart. Not to mention the grisly murder scene photos left out for her to see. I did enjoy the way that despite the unpleasantness of her upbringing, this was obviously the reason she’s the woman she is.

I loved the gory murder scenes, they really appealed to my need for darker fiction. I was a smidge disappointed when The Prophet’s MO was revealed. I hate to say it but I felt it wasn’t a new idea, that maybe it had been done before? I loved the ending. There were two points during the conclusion though where I felt a little let down. A couple of things happened and they felt an ‘odd fit’ for the rest of the story. I expect that it’ll all make perfect sense in book two though (in other words, maybe they were added to the story so there could be a second book..?).

Would I recommend this book? I would, particularly if you’re a fan of the serial killer thriller. I don’t want anyone to get me wrong here. This is a great book, one I really enjoyed and on any other day I would be singing its praises from the hills. I thought it was my missing reading mojo rescue remedy, but it wasn’t (that’s a lot of pressure to put on one book!). I’m probably being a lot more critical in this review than I normally am so my apologies to the author and publisher for that but I was so desperate to love this book and I just feel a little disappointed (in myself). All in all, I love how Gardiner writes, I love her characters and I would pick up the second book in the Unsub series without a moment’s hesitation. I’m just a grump at the moment.

Four out of five stars.

My thanks to Beth at Bibliobeth for sending me a copy of Unsub. I won her blogiversary giveaway where the prize was five books of my choice. Unsub was one of the books I chose.


Unsub by Meg Gardiner was published by Dutton Books in January 2018 and is available in hardcover, paperback and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | BookDepository | Goodreads |