My Review | Home Before Dark

Photo shows the book cover of Home Before Dark by Riley Sager - Photo by Peri McKinnis - Peri Reads -

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 inHouse 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.

Riley Sager is a name I have heard all over the book side of social media and GoodReads. So when September rolled around and BOTM updated their books I was a bit disappointed with what came up. I decided to sneak a peek at the member favs and I saw this one and knew it had to come home to me. Reading the bio alone was enough to convince me that this was my next read. And I’ll say that I was pleasantly surprised. As mentioned in the GoodReads synopsis the storyline is similar to the Amityville Horror, where a family moves in a supposed haunted house and abandon it in the middle of the night because they were right. However this one is a little different because Maggie Holt doesn’t remember anything from that house being haunted and she’s tired of living under the book’s shadow. But if she goes back to find the truth, will she be ready to face it? 

“What I do recall is colored by what’s in the Book. Instead of memories, I have excerpts. It’s like looking at a photograph of a photograph. The framing is off. The colors are dulled. The image is slightly dark.”

The story is split into two parts, the present with Maggie and chapters from her father’s book that coincide with the current events. After her father dies Maggie is given a gift she never asked for- the deed to the “haunted” Baneberry Hall, the house that caused her family so much fame and grief. She sees this as a business opportunity to restore the old house and have an excuse to get to the bottom of if her father’s book had any truth to it. Her father’s book, House of Horrors, is in chronological order of the days they moved in to the last day that they were forced to flee. Maggie uses her father’s book to find clues that may be scattered around the house such as the strange noises, the snake infestation, and the mysterious disappearance of her neighbor, Petra Ditmer. All things that have reasonable explanations except for the latter. I honestly enjoyed the fun of reading these two books side by side and noticing how Maggie’s days were similar to her father’s, showing that no matter what she did, the book still dictates her life. It also helped us find easter eggs that Maggie may have missed or found later. The details all come together towards the end which was entertaining to see unfold. It’s like watching a semi cheesy paranormal movie where the ghosts were being helpful the whole time and the real evil was right in front of us. The characters were all unique and some where call backs from House of Horrors that are now aged, some from stress by that godforsaken book. The ending threw me for a loop that I wasn’t expecting and overall the atmosphere that Sager created when talking about the imaginary friends that haunted Maggie gave me chills and making me turn my night light back on. 

I will say there were moments of confusion for me. Like I said it did remind me of a cheesy horror movie but even those have some plot holes that cannot be explained logically. Moments like these happened in the book that does add a spooky flair but there’s no real explanation for it. For me if there are details added in the book they need to serve some kind of purpose. If they don’t it leaves me wondering what the point was of me reading about it. The ending, while I said it was entertaining, felt a little too farfetched to me and completely random. Like it was put in the book last minute. There was no healthy buildup towards the twist. Hey I’m a big fan of twists when they make sense and you’re able to spot it before you get to it. But the supposed “twist” had me stop for a minute just to figure out how it made any sense. The other occurrences in the book made sense but others felt like they were added to show that Maggie was staying in a haunted house. I was also under the impression that the book had some moments similar to a “jump scare” and felt it lacked that aspect. Which there’s nothing wrong with that I’m just a little disappointed with the scare factor from this book. 

“Every house has a story to tell.”

All in all I felt Sager’s book was an entertaining read, an interesting storyline, and the ghosts were fun to learn about. The setting was beautifully described and Maggie was a fun protagonist that got what she wanted in the end. The truth can either be a blessing or a curse. I’d say this book was great read especially for this time of year and if you’re in the mood to read about possible fake haunted houses then this is the book for you!






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Hey! I’m Peri McKinnis

Peri McKinnis of Peri Reads

I’m a creative, I’m a dreamer, and I’m an Aries. I’ll read any book with enough convincing, I enjoy weird movies, and I’m a caffeine fiend. From the day that I brought my first book catalog home from school I knew that books were going to have a special place in my heart. Now I want to spread that love here, to talk about the books that made us cry, fall in love, and scorn because we couldn’t finish them.