Home Before Dark | By Riley Sager
Book Review | Paranormal Thriller
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.
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?
Narrative and Plot
This is the third hyped book that I am read in the month of October. Home Before Dark is a paranormal thriller that basically follows two timelines simultaneously. We have Maggie Holt in the present day, in her thirties, trying to uncover the past while trying to renovate Baneberry Hall. Then there are the events of the non-fiction book written by her father, which may or may not be true.
The two storylines basically form the plot. The realities collide at some point, making you question anything and everything in your way, including the narrator at one point. Needless to say, the writing pulls you in on a journey filled with mystery.
Characters and Conflicts
Maggie, the main character, has unresolved issues in her past. Since this is the second Riley Sager book I am reading after the Final Girls, there is a similar pattern in the narrative. However, they are not the same.
All her life, Maggie has been defined by The Book as she calls it and she is unable to remember any of it. Beneath all that, the basic internal conflict of the protagonist is never being able to completely open up with her parents.
Despite the quirky house and the larger-than-life premise, the conflict is quite easy to get behind. Then, there is the paranormal mystery and even darker secrets as the story goes on. The plot thickens and becomes one of those scenarios where you look at the remaining pages and build up the anxiety worrying about how everything is going to wrap up.
However, the book provides quite the bookend style ending. It pays off for all that emotional ride and questions the reader has.
Even if I am not exactly a great fan of horror, I could see myself returning to this book just for the vibe of it. The way the book establishes the world and the characters in it trumps the mystery element. Home Before Dark is the perfect spooky thriller read for October.