Sunday, August 9, 2020

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

I finally got off my duff and concentrated on a book long enough to finish it. I've been bouncing between 3-4 books since August 1st and not making headway in any of them. However, Home Before Dark took over and the more I read, the more invested I got in the story and couldn't put it down. And since today is National Book Lover's Day, I thought it was appropriate to have a relaxing Sunday and read all morning. 

Home Before Dark is the first book I've read by author Riley Sager, and I'm happy to say I'll definitely be reading more. This was a blend of thriller, ghost story, and mystery all rolled into one. I honestly didn't know where the story was taking me until the very end. 

Maggie Holt's life has been ruled by her father's infamous haunted house memoir, published when Maggie was around six years old. In it, her father tells the story of their experience living for just a few short weeks in Baneberry Hall, an old estate in the Vermont woods. His book House of Horrors describes the increasingly uneasy happenings in the house, which culminate in Maggie and her parents fleeing one July night, never to return to the house again. The memoir made her parents rich, but tore the family apart. It also caused Maggie to have a somewhat miserable childhood. Her parents wouldn't discuss the book and whether or not it was true, and Maggie was always known as "that girl". Now her father has died, and to Maggie's surprise, he has left her his whole estate-which includes Baneberry Hall. He never sold it, and Maggie doesn't know why. Now she's returning to get the house ready to sell, and also to dig deep and find out if her parents made everything up or if the home is actually haunted. 

As Maggie returns, she's not very welcome in town. Her father's memoir made the small town and some of its inhabitants infamous, and even though it's been 25 years, the resentment is still strong. Maggie just wants to quickly renovate the place, put it up for sale, and never see it again. However, things begin to happen that make Maggie question everything about her father, his memoir, and her own memories of that long ago July. If she can't remember specific things that happened in the book, does that mean they never happened? Or was she so traumatized by it all that she simply can't remember? 

I was completely ready for a spooky horror novel. What I got was a puzzle that slowly unfolded, and kept me trying to figure out what exactly happened at Baneberry Hall 25 years before. Why is Maggie's mother so reluctant to talk about it? Why is Maggie having horrible night terrors of Mister Shadow coming out of the armoire in her room, just as she did as a child? Is the place really haunted? And if so, by whom? The history of the house is steeped in sadness and a whole lot of death. 

This was a great read. Every other chapter is a chapter from the House of Horrors memoir, and that definitely kept me glued to the pages! 

Rating: 5/6 for a thriller with a supernatural element that leaves you guessing: is it true? Twists and turns that make it hard to figure out until the very end. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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