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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Newest Chiller is Sager at His Creepy-Crawly Best

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"'You want the truth?  I'll give it to you.  Things have happened in that house.  Tragic things...And all those things, well, they...linger'" (130).

When Maggie Holt was five years old, her parents bought their dream home.  Built in 1875, Baneberry House was spacious, grand, and surprisingly cheap.  Maggie's parents laughed off its sinister reputation and moved in, determined to turn the place into the warm family retreat they both desired.  Less than a month later, the family fled Baneberry House in the dead of night, wailing about ghosts and threatening messages from the beyond.  They never returned to the old pile, but Ewan Holt—Maggie's father—wrote a lurid tell-all about the family's terrifying experiences there.  Like The Amityville Horror, it became a hugely popular bestseller, America's favorite ghost story.

Although Maggie's childhood was financed by the proceeds of Ewan's book, she has always detested living in the spotlight of its success.  Especially since she knows the truth—her father made the whole thing up.  

When Ewan dies, 30-year-old Maggie is shocked to learn she has inherited Baneberry House, a property she thought was sold long ago.  With the keys in hand, she now has the chance to prove to the world—and to herself—that Ewan Holt was a liar, that his famous book is nothing but an imaginative hoax.  It's not long after Maggie moves into Baneberry House, intending to spend the summer fixing up the place before she puts it on the market, that strange things start happening inside its walls.  If Ewan was lying through his teeth, then what exactly is Maggie experiencing now, 25 years later?  Is it possible that she has been wrong about her father?  What if everything he wrote was the God's honest truth?  What then?  Baneberry House haunted Maggie when she was young—what if it's not done with her?  

Like Ewan Holt, Riley Sager knows how to spin a deliciously terrifying yarn.  Home Before Dark, his newest, is him at his creepy, spooky, scary best.  The novel unfolds in alternating chapters told from Ewan's perspective (sections from his book) and Maggie's, 25 years later.  It's an effective format, one which heightens tension and suspense throughout the book.  Atmospheric and unnerving, the haunted house setting creates the kind of shivery vibe that has readers jumping at every sound and cowering under the covers.  The fact that the book's already eerie cover glows in the dark is just icing on the creepy-cake.  The best part about Home Before Dark, though, is that the story keeps you constantly off balance, wondering what is real and what is not.  While I guessed some of its plot twists, others surprised me, making the book a fun, mess-with-your-head kind of read.  I'm pretty wimpy, but I still enjoy a ghostly, hair-raising read now and then and this one definitely fits that bill.  If you're up for an unsettling spine-chiller, I definitely recommend Home Before Dark.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter as well as books by Simone St. JamesCarol Goodman, and Jennifer McMahon)    


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find


  1. Ok, I think this is not the first time someone sang Riley Sager's praises but I've not read anything by this author. I definitely need to add them to my arsenal as I get into some spooky reads from time to time.

    Wonderful review, Susan!

  2. This is the book I'm planning on reading next! I've got my copy from the library, and I just have to finish 50 more pages of the book I'm currently reading and then I get to start this one. And I can't wait. :D

  3. This sounds like a book I shouldn't read at night!

  4. Wow, what a story! I was fascinated by your review but am not sure I could read it because I'm not just 'pretty' wimpy, I'm 'very' wimpy. LOL

  5. Maybe I should give this author another try. I really did not care for Final Girls and have picked up another book. This sounds like a good read.

  6. I really loved this one and thrilled to read author has a new book coming out as well. Do you know I thought author was female? Not sure why but, you made me check it out - I've read several of his books.

  7. Wonderful review Susan, but not sure if it is for me. I do not do chilling very well.

  8. I really loved this book a lot. And I can't wait for Riley Sager's next release!


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