Review: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

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?

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.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager. Narrated by Cady McClain and Jon Lindstrom. Audiobook run time, 11 hours and 4 mins. Published by Penguin Audio, June 2020.

*Possible triggers: Child death.

First, I want to bring up the cover. It is just so captivating. I don’t know what it is… the color maybe? The contrast between the green and the black? I don’t know. It is such a simple cover design but I just can’t take my eyes off of it. Also, it is a design that ties into the book plot so nicely! I really love it. Just beautiful.

Ok, so the story! Alright so this story has a lot in common with Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. We have two different accounts going on, but one is from a father’s book, the other is 25 years later when the daughter is renovating the house from the book. You don’t really, truly know what is going on the whole time. You don’t know who to trust. There are a lot of WTF twists near the end that I know I didn’t see coming. You also never truly know if there is something supernatural or not going on. The ending gives you a good idea, but there is still a tiny part of mind that is still unsure what just happened.

I was not a fan of all the twists in Head Full of Ghosts. Home Before Dark pulled off similar twists in such a better way. I’m not going into details about that because I don’t want to have any spoilers. So if you know, you know, if you don’t, don’t worry about it right now. 🙂

I loved every minute of this book. It was a lot of fun getting to hear the book within a book being read to us, and then the daughter searching for the truth of the book’s chapter we had just “read.” There were a lot of layers in this story that kept me hooked the whole time. What reallllllly happened?? Not only what happened to Maggie and her family, but what happened to other families connected to living in the house as well as a missing 16 year old girl who lived next door. Lots of stuff to unpack. I had to know! It was an 11 hour audiobook that flew by. The pacing was really smooth. It did not feel like an 11 hour book at all.

The narrators did a top notch job. The father’s voice sounded so defeated by life. It really fit his over all personality from what really went on in the house and why he was so…. crushed…. by what happened. The daughter had all the perfect attitude in her voice that fit a child (albeit a 30 year old child) who was angry at her parents and rebelling against whatever they said. Cady nailed the “WhatEVER mom/ dad!” voice just right. Both narrator did a nice job with other characters voices as well. I had zero complaints about Jon or Cady’s work. Very nice performances.

The last two hours get CRAZY! You get all the twists thrown at you in a crazy tornado of action and deception. You don’t really know what is going on as you get swept up the reveals. There was one small predictable part at the end, but over all, I had no idea what all was going down. Those two hours went fast and I’m pretty sure my mouth was hanging open the whole time. Home Before Dark is more thriller then supernatural, which I normally don’t like… but this book made it work. I recommend this book. I’d never read anything else by this author even though I knew the name. I was impressed.

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