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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?
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.
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.
Riley Sager gives us a very well done ghost story. Things do go bump in the night and the reader will understand the fright of the people involved in the action described. But wait, is it really a story about haunted houses and ethereal entities or not?
Two positives as you read this book. You will enjoy an exceptionally well done novel and not being able to sleep until it is finished, and also not being able to readily answer the question of is it a ghost story or not?
Maggie Holt and a partner are involved in the business of restoring old run down houses and then selling them at a profit. Maggie comes across a Victorian estate located in the Vermont woods which fits the parameters of homes suitable for her partner and herself to fix up and sell. It is coincidentally one that she and her parents had bought twenty-five years ago, lived in for a short time and then fled the premises. Maggie does not recall the reasons for her family suddenly fleeing the house with her memory on that score drawing a complete blank. The only thing she recalls other than fleeing the house is her father, an author of note, had written a book about the mansion that became a best seller and made the family a good deal of money.
When moving in Maggie’s parents had arranged with a sixteen-year-old girl living close to them to babysit for their daughter, and a mystery evolved when that girl suddenly disappeared from home never to be found. The supposition about the mansion being haunted revolves around the girl that vanished and now haunting the house looking for “something.”
Events happen that support the evidence of a ghost, or rather three of them, that are in the house. Maggie notices that things start vanishing and checking looks like no one has entered the mansion. She also revives childhood memories about being visited by three unknowns and told that she will die in the house; with repressed memories that remain with her throughout the years after fleeing it with her parents.
Readers will be caught up in the apparently otherworldly things that have happened over the years to two families involved with the events described. It is a five-star mesmerizing novel and another set of kudos to Sager.
7/2020 Paul Lane
HOME BEFORE DARK by Riley Sager. Dutton (June 30, 2020). ISBN: 978-1524745172. 400 pages.