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Review: Home Before Dark

Home Before Dark

Title: Home Before Dark
Author: Riley Sager
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Dutton Books
Date Published: June 30, 2020
You can find it here: Bookshop.org

Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

Overall Thoughts:

This is a fine mystery, with some good creepy moments. I wouldn’t say this was ever scary per se, and coming from this major scaredy-cat, that’s saying something. I understand that fear factor is 100% subjective though but I think in the end this disappointed me. I was expecting to at least be a wee bit scared. And I wasn’t. Not at all. Lights turned on. There were some noises. Some dark shit went down in the past … that’s about it. 

I struggled greatly with main character Maggie. She was just, frustrating and whiny. The whole “I conveniently forget everything from my childhood experience here” story-arc was massively tiring and wholly unbelievable. I’m thinking if you experienced anything as explicitly terrifying as your father’s famous book alludes to … you’re going to remember some of it? 

It definitely could be the hype surrounding this book and author, but I mostly left the experience feeling underwhelmed. I was quite annoyed by the ending, which came greatly unsurprising, and was exceptionally frustrated by the great plot holes (that I cannot express because it would be major spoilers). Maggie was tiring – exacerbated by the audio narrator who portrayed her as whiny and arrogant – and I feel the whole “where is this going to go” was pretty obvious out of the gate. I expected more. 

Read This If:

  • Want to dip your toe into the horror genre with a book that is lightly scary with no gore. 
  • Gothic, haunted houses, old murder mysteries, and sinister pasts are all your personal literary buzzwords.
  • Are fine with snakes.

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