Do you believe in ghosts?
The latest thriller release by Riley Sager, Home Before Dark, which is due to publish on June 30th, is sure to make you think about this very question. Sager’s previous books are all pulse-pounding must reads as well: Final Girls, The Last Time I Lied, and Lock Every Door.
Home Before Dark has been called the most anticipated release of the year. I’m extremely lucky and thankful to Dutton Books for sending me an advanced copy.
Maggie Holt’s entire life (since she was 5 years old) has been defined by the Book, a book called House of Horrors that her father Ewan wrote and claimed it was a true story and the reason behind their family’s abrupt departure from the infamous Baneberry Hall twenty five years ago. Baneberry Hall is a rambling Victorian home in the secluded woods of Bartleby, Vermont, named by the original owner after a poisonous red plant, baneberries, found in the woods around the home. Since the book was released, Maggie has been famous for all the wrong reasons, as the little girl in the book. Besides being treated like a social outcast and a freak, she was always asked “what was it like living in a haunted house?” But Maggie can’t remember any of the things that her father claimed happened to her in the short span of 20 days that they lived in Baneberry Hall. Maggie has always believed they were lies in a get rich quick book deal for her father who always wanted to write the great American novel. Furthermore, Maggie firmly believes that ghost do not exist.
Now, present day, Maggie’s father Ewan has passed away after a battle with cancer, leaving her with a small fortune from book sales, the rights to the book, and surprisingly, Baneberry Hall itself. Maggie always assumed that her parents sold the house after they fled its dark, historic walls a final time. As a restorer of old homes, Maggie decides to move in to Baneberry Hall while getting it ready for sale, hoping to make a profit from it. The locals are not too happy to see a member of the Holt family back in their close-knit, sleepy little town, thanks to her father’s claims made in the House of Horrors and the media and ghost hunting zealots it brought to their town. Maggie also hopes that moving into Baneberry Hall will help answer the many questions she has about her family’s time there and the real reason they left so quickly
When Maggie arrives, she is shocked to discover that the house is still full of old relics from the different families who lived there, starting with the Garsons who built the home in 1875. Next were the Carvers, who were there briefly before a shocking tragedy occurred. Even her own family’s belongings are still scattered about the house – clothing, toys, etc – and left out as if the family would return at any moment to pick up where they left off living in the home. Then things described in detail in Ewan’s book start to happen exactly to Maggie and she begins to question her own sanity, her father’s memory, and ultimately what is really going on inside the walls of Baneberry Hall that made her father’s last words be a warning to her, “It’s not safe there. Not for you.”
Thus unfolds a chilling, atmospheric, creepy, and well-written thriller you do not want to miss! Told in alternating chapters between Maggie’s return to Baneberry Hall in present day and the chapter’s of her father’s book, House of Horrors, there are twists and turns you will not expect. I found myself reading this book during the day so as not to creep myself out too much before going to bed. There’s nothing like a creepy story set in an old home in the secluded woods to scare a girl like me, who lives in a cabin in the woods.
Again, thank you to Dutton for the early review copy. This is easily one of my top reads of 2020 and I look forward to more thrills from Riley Sager in the future.