Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Every house has a story to tell and a secret to share.”
Told from two different timelines, between Maggie’s present perspective and her father, Ewan Holt’s popular non-fiction horror story recounting their experience of 20 days living in Baneberry Hall. A small town was left quite unhappy when, 15 years ago, the mysterious Baneberry House became the location of Ewan Holt’s novel “House of Horrors.” For what he wrote to be a story of fact, Maggie has no memory of anything from her experience in the house. And her parents refused to speak of the short 20 days they spent in the house there. Naturally, Maggie feels that the story is pure fiction, just like the rest of the townsfolk.
Never go back there. It’s not safe there. Not for you.
When Maggie’s father dies, he leaves all his belongings to his daughter, including the house she had thought he had sold 15 years ago. Maggie, an interior designer, sets out to restore the house to its Victorian appeal and resell it…Of course, he may use the time she has while remodeling to also prove to herself that her father did lie all this time.
I had no idea what Baneberry Hall really had in store for us…its history would eventually threaten to smother us. How twenty days inside its walls would become a waking nightmare.
The Holt family buys the house, not knowing its dark history: The original family, Indigo Garson was poisoned by her father, and the previous family, Curtis Carver suffocates his daughter and then kills himself. Then, according to Ewan’s book, strange things start happening. Tapping is heard from one end of the hall to the next, followed by a loud thud is heard from the third floor study at 04:54, and finished with the record player singing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” every night! A chandelier alights on its own. The room bells in the kitchen ring on their own. Horrifying snakes drop from nowhere. And young 5 year old Maggie cries out of fear from Mr. Shadow and Miss Pennyface who appear out of her armoire, and the young girl who can’t leave her room.
Now if my daughter told me that she saw these people coming out of her armoire, I am NOT investigating it. I am not packing a bag. I am gathering my family and we out ✌
Naturally, Ewan’s book recounts the family trying to reason with the insanity of it all. Maggie returns to the house to discover that every year since her parents divorced, he has returned to the house on July 15th, only to stay a night and leave until the following year. And Petra Ditmer, the daughter of the caretaker of the house, vanished that same night and never returned. Everyone assumed she ran away. But when a bag of bones literally falls from the ceiling, Maggie starts to wonder if the house truly has a sinister side.
He says we’re going to die here.
Again, my daughter says this to me, we are leaving that house faster than a speeding rocket. I still have nightmares from The Conjuring. Maggie starts to question more when things start disappearing from the house. A letter opener. A teddy bear found in her father’s office. Which some of the objects Maggie discovers were stolen from the house by Hannah Ditmer, who remains in the caretaker house that her mother once resided in, to be sold online to afford her mother’s medical bills.
This book was a real doozy for me. Perhaps because it is the closest to horror that I have read since middle school when I snuck out a copy of I Know What You Did Last Summer without my mom knowing. First I thought it was a book of a haunted house and possible demonic possessions, again I was imagining a bit of the Conjuring…
to “The gardener did it!” (Scooby Doo and Zombie Island’s Beau)
But Sager gives a real twist at the end, which literally made me rethink the entire story back to try to understand how I had missed this twist…
This is my first book I have read by Riley Sager, and I am truly amazed at his ability to write as if you are watching the book play out in a movie before your eyes. I highly recommend this book for fans of suspense, mystery, and a bit of spooky horror. (view spoiler)[Sadly, this was not a haunted house of ghosts that possess or attack the living as I had thought, but it was still a perfect read for spooky season! (hide spoiler)]
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Are you a scaredy cat for spooky books? Or do you enjoy reading scary books? What are some of your favorite spooky reads?
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