Thanks to The Book of the Month Club, I just read my first Riley Sager novel and it was such a treat.* Home Before Dark is Sager’s forth novel. His prior novels are Final Girls, The Last Time I Lied, and Lock Every Door.
If you’re a reader of haunted house tales or enjoy mysteries with a Gothic bent, you should definitely check out Home Before Dark. As a fan of The Amityville Horror who knows a little about the investigation made into claims surrounding the haunting of that house, I got a kick out of reading this novel that plays homage to that 1970s mega-bestseller.
Here’s a quick intro to Home Before Dark:
Maggie Holt was five years old when her parents purchased Baneberry Hall, a Victorian mansion with a bloody history in a small Vermont town. Twenty days after moving in, the Holts flee their home leaving behind all possessions, just like the homeowners before them. Maggie’s dad, Ewan Holt, is a freelance writer who, no surprise, writes a book based on their experience called House of Horrors.
The book is a huge worldwide bestseller and because it centered around Maggie, she’s never been able to escape being associated with it. The Book, as she calls it, has defined her life even though she doesn’t remember much about living in the house. Most people believe the events described in the Book. Maggie loved her father, but they had a complicated relationship due to the Book. She thinks the book was mainly lies. Her parents divorced not long after whatever happened at Baneberry Hall, and Maggie’s mom hasn’t been helpful in dealing with the past.
It’s twenty-five years later and Maggie is now a grown woman who lives in Boston and runs a successful home renovation business with a friend. After her dad dies, Maggie decides it’s time to figure out what really happened in Baneberry Hall.
That’s the set up. What follows is a story that’s an enjoyable combination of supernatural horror and mystery novel.
The structure of Home Before Dark is a novel within a novel. The chapters alternate between Ewan Holt’s House of Horrors: A True Story and Maggie’s current day experience. I ate it up. This novel was so much fun to read, both creepy and suspenseful. The story never lags. Sager’s writing made me think things that ended up being red herrings while other things that ended up being important slipped by me unnoticed.
There’s not much more I’m willing to write here out of fear of veering into spoiler territory, but if you like haunted house stories I highly recommend this one.
The only thing that I thought was off is the title. Unless I missed something, “Home Before Dark” just doesn’t capture the vibe of the book. That is of little matter, though, and certainly didn’t impact my reading of the novel. I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.
Home Before Dark comes out on June 30th from Dutton.
–> Author website: https://www.rileysagerbooks.com/
–> Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50833559-home-before-dark
*I received a copy of this book as part of an advertisement agreement between The Book of the Month Club and my podcast, the Book Cougars. The FTC requires disclosure of free books for promotional purposes and this book fits into that category. I’m not praising this book (or any book on this blog) because it was part of that promotional deal. Books and reading are way too important to me to promote a book for money. I’ve been receiving advance and promotional copies of books professionally for twenty years now and I only write about or review books that I’ve read and enjoyed or found important in some way.