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Home Before Dark

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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.

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?

389 pages, Hardcover

First published June 30, 2020

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About the author

Riley Sager

11 books21.5k followers
Riley Sager is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels, most recently SURVIVE THE NIGHT and HOME BEFORE DARK. His first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Hardcover Novel and has been published in more than thirty countries. His latest novel, THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE, will be published in June.

A native of Pennsylvania, he now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he's not writing, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is "Rear Window." Or maybe "Jaws." But probably, if he's being honest, "Mary Poppins."

Website: www.rileysagerbooks.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rileysagerbooks
Twitter: @Riley_Sager.

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5 stars
48,682 (34%)
4 stars
61,388 (43%)
3 stars
24,214 (17%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 19,533 reviews
Profile Image for Chelsea *Slowly Catching Up* Humphrey.
1,387 reviews77.1k followers
September 12, 2022
"Every house has a story. Ours is a ghost story. It's also a lie. And now that yet another person has died within these walls, it's finally time to tell the truth."

Fellow Riley Sager junkies, you've waited so patiently for me to slip out of my Covid-19 induced anxiety, and I'm here to tell you that I've shaken the funk and am feeling passionately encouraged to word vomit my thoughts about this book. Before I get started, you need to know going in that this book has a slightly altered feel to his previous novels, but I feel like this is a given, as each book he writes evolves into a new thrilling sub-genre. If I had to compare Home Before Dark to another one of Sager's books, I'd say that it would mostly align with Final Girls, as it portrays that same growing since of dread while serving a side of mainstream horror. The blurbs calling this a tale for fans of Hill House are spot on, and if you love a good ghost story, whether those ghosts are supernatural or manmade monsters, I think you'll adore this book.

If you enjoy books within books, they you're in luck, because that's just what we have here! In the book portions, AKA the past, Maggie and her parents moved into this big scary mansion where some really questionable things happened in the past, but they aren't weenies and decide that the low low asking price is worth the risk of their lives. *cue the scary music* When we alternate to the present tense, we know that something really bad happened that caused Maggie's family to abandon the property in the middle of the night, just a few short weeks after moving in, and that is the large suspenseful build up throughout the book. Obviously, we need to know what happened and who was responsible!


The beauty of this story is that there are a million little working parts that come together to form the outcome of the whole book, and even if you guess a few of the twists, I can guarantee there will be a few others that will blow your mind. One of the twists crossed my mind from the moment the curious behavior piqued my interest, and I wasn't disappointed when I ended up being correct in my assumptions, because it showcased one of my favorite plot twists from a movie in recent years (which I won't mention here for fear of spoilers). There are ghosts of various kinds, snakes, hot contractors with washboard abs, snakes, delicious baked goods, snakes, things that go bump in the night... Did I mention the snakes and the guy with the really great bod? Just checking.

*In my best Stefan voice* This summer's hottest book is Home Before Dark. It has everything: creepy haunted houses, mysterious people from the past, and an ending that will have you sure to keep on the lights when you sleep for at least a few nights. This one is well worth the pre-order friends!


*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,420 reviews8,948 followers
January 25, 2023
Riley Sager got me again. My favorite book of 2020!!!

In my opinion, Home Before Dark is Sager's best work yet!!!

Also, I do acknowledge that I have now fully exceeded my lifetime use of the exclamation point, but I assure you, in this case it is warranted.

I loved, loved, loved this story with my whole heart and soul.

Upon the death of her father, Maggie Holt, is shocked to discover she has just inherited Baneberry Hall, the allegedly haunted mansion her family abandoned some 25-years earlier.

Quite literally fleeing in the middle of the night, her parents refused to ever return to the property. Her father then published a best-selling, purportedly nonfiction account of their time there. As you do.

For Maggie's part, she remembers nothing about their time at Baneberry and had assumed the property had been sold off years ago.

She was just 5-years old when they briefly lived at the manse and apparently, her little mind wiped the slate clean after they departed.

She has read her father's book, House of Horrors, numerous times, but doesn't believe a word of it.

Her parents, whose relationship didn't survive the publication of said book, wouldn't tell her anything, even though she pleaded with them to do so.

Returning all these years later, Maggie, now a professional home renovator, hopes to piece together a bit of the truth while also working on prepping the property for sale.

As soon as she arrives at Baneberry, however, she's knows it is not going to be as easy as she had hoped.

Getting to alternate between Maggie's perspective and full chapters from her father's novel, House of Horrors, was an absolutely delightful way to read this story. I loved how Sager constructed it.

The pacing was perfection!

I was so engaged with this throughout; it got into my mind. The eeriness of the house and everything going on there. It was bloody fantastic.

I was racing towards the conclusion trying to discover how much of House of Horrors was actually true. Maggie's father was definitely a convincing author!

Baneberry Hall was such a presence in the story. It was ominous and creepy AF. It definitely gave me Overlook Hotel vibes with the way the history of the property felt so vibrant and in your face.

I can't imagine being Maggie, staying there alone!

If you haven't read anything by Sager yet and are wondering where to start, I highly recommend giving this one a shot. I think it is a perfect example of his style.

If you have read Sager before, and are a fan, what are you waiting for!?

I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next!
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,064 reviews38k followers
August 25, 2022
I love an author’s vivid creativity and trying something unexpected to exceed his or her previous writing performances by taking a challenge and trying something brand new.

Riley Sager is one of the most brilliant authors raises the bars and waltz between genres and serves us fresh baked from oven kind of delicious, soul crushing, mind numbing, exhilarating, surprising stories with WTF I just read kind of twisty, the rug pulled out from your feet kind of endings.
This time he dances between horror, supernatural, ghost stories and mix them with true crime, murder, whodunit elements. You sense Amityville Horror, Haunting of Hill House and a little bit “Exorcist”, “Shining” and “Conjuring” vibes. At some parts you sense the author’s tribute to Stephen King novels by using his favorite elements like dysfunctional family dynamics, small town mystery, the thin line between madness and reality.

So get ready to freak out because you’re reading two books at the same time:

One of them belongs to Megan Holt’s POV, inherited a so called haunted house from her father after his sudden death and advised her not to go there again.

Other book belongs to Megan’s father Ewan telling us their 20 days of horrifying experience at the house with his soon to be ex-wife and 5 years old Megan.

Ewan’s part of the book published and haunted Megan’s life forever, prevented her forming normal relationships and having a real social life. She only have one close friend and business partner Allie helps her renovating houses and now she decides to move to Baneberry Hall: the haunted family Victorian estate and learn the truth her family is hiding because she never believed that ghostbusters against paranormal activity bullshit. But as soon as she takes her first step in the house, unbelievable and spooky things start to happen! Megan still has no idea about what happened when she was little and she insisted her parents to come clean but they denied her.

And Ewan’s book is more entertaining and horrifying than Megan’s POV, making you feel like any time Winchester Brothers appear out of nowhere to help the family pouring salt on the floor and put the ghosts on fire. Especially the creepy song plays at the night time gave me so much creeps and huge desire to scream till my throat burns.
I don’t’ want to give more spoils but I may only say the ending is satisfying and some parts are foreseeable but you still want to ask yourself: “What! Why! WTH?” yes, you partly expected some parts but not the whole picture! (I filled like my spidey senses out of juice!)

I also have to add: last two books’ covers of the author are fantastic! They give you a brief warning that something terrifying and disturbing is waiting you as soon as you flip the pages.

Overall: Pacing is good. However, at some parts I lost my interest for Megan’s POV and I enjoyed Ewan’s book so much more, it is still riveting, heart throbbing, nail, elbow, hand, arm biter, unputdowable, creepy story that I’ve dreamt of! I was so ready to sell my not so precious soul to get an ARC COPY and my wish came true.

So I’m giving 3.5 stars rounded up to 4!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Dutton Books for ARC of one of the most anticipated thrillers of this year in exchange my honest review and thanks to Riley Sager, I loved this book more than “Lock Every Door”

Profile Image for daph pink ♡ .
878 reviews3,016 followers
June 30, 2022
2.25 stars✨

*Checks my watch* yes it's time for history's most unpopular opinions?

Riley Sager (Mr. Riley Sager) Do you hear my screams of anguish?

Yes, I'm displeased. I had high hopes for this book, but it turned out to be a collection of iconic horror sequences from top horror movies and narrative twists from best-selling books like Shirley Jackson and Stephen King's The Shining, with a stupidly idiotic finale!

It was my second most anticipated book of July. And here I am sitting and thinking how horribly can a author murder a book!

what I liked?

creepy haunted house setting :- mind you only the setting and not what happened inside it! I am a sucker for small town mystery and this one set in Vermont hills serves the purpose right!

alternating pov :- I like the idea of representing a book this way. I guess it was the only think which kept me going!

strong start

What I disliked?

• what genre should I put it in?
:- the book horribly murdered the idea of being a horror book and that ridiculous end murdered the idea of putting it in mystery .

• wasn't enough ghost vibes :- unlike most of the people here no I wasnt scared to my wit's..I didn't pee in my pants and definitely I wasn't scared of my own shadow!
This book lacked the ghost and Gothic vibes it was determined to deliver!

boring in middle :- half way through the book i lost my interest especially in Maggie pov which was super naive and boring !

• wtf ending :- the disgusted/ frustrated wtf ending! It was like the most stupid and ridiculous ending I expected from the author !
What happened to this?
What happened to her?
How will you explain this?
Why was this thing happening?
I was left wondering and the book ended!

I like lock every door better than this! Or I guess his every book was better than this.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
525 reviews56.6k followers
September 5, 2020
(3.75) Haunted house with a gothic feel are one of my guilty pleasure. This book had a strong start and even though I did figure out "who did it" it was still pretty good.

I did feel like the main female character was the biggest weakness. She didn't ring true to me and I cringed multiple times (any description of Dane, the mansplaining bit, the telling all her secrets after knowing him for 24h which gave me flashbacks of Lock Every Door...).

Not as good as The Last Time I Lied but an enjoyable fall read!

Reviews of all his books: https://youtu.be/SAd1t5LZqus
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,170 reviews25.3k followers
June 19, 2020
I loved every second of this creepy suspenseful story. It had the best Haunting of Hill House vibes that I've ever seen in a book and I was absolutely obsessed with the vibe of this book and I was genuinely scared at times and I might have slept with the lights on. Reading vlog just went up: https://youtu.be/zA0a8Q_lzp8
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews109k followers
September 27, 2021
Pretty standard thriller; a simple read for when I was in a reading slump.
Profile Image for chan ☆.
1,011 reviews46k followers
July 14, 2020
this has “thriller of summer 2020” written all over it

i’ll say it, emphatically again, but i really think riley sager has proven that you can do a modern thriller in a way that doesn’t rely on cheating spouses. this book was so much fun.
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :) .
958 reviews2,552 followers
January 10, 2021

Well I was looking for a book to take my mind off of what is going on in the world right now and this was definitely a great choice! I don’t know if I’m a true lover of ghost stories but I like great fiction with supernatural elements. This author once again has written a book that will be at the top of my list of best books of 2020/thrillers for sure.

The author has written a book within a book for this novel and he has done it very well. It does keep you on your toes at first but then the book just takes off and you’re in for a riveting, who and what do I believe, twisty, turny story. For me I personally prefer a novel with well developed characters and even the “ghosts” are fully described.

One point of view is that of Maggie Holt a young woman who has just inherited an old house when her father recently passed away. She had lived in the house when she was 5 years old but she has no memory of that time and her parents still will not tell her why they left that house and all of their things and never went back. Of course Maggie, who has a business with friend Alli, knows how to restore interiors and wants to go back to Baneberry Hall, clear it out and get it ready for sale. She also wanted to find out why her parents would never tell her what went on during that time. She has lived all of her life with the stigma of her father’s book. Some people loved it, others thought he was terrible to write it because it made their town look bad. She does find out the truth, first slowly and then the tension builds and there are so many things happening at the same time!! This part of the story was great, very easy to follow and I loved the characters.

The other point of view is the actual writing from Maggie’s father’s book, There are entire pages of the book where we really get a different vibe of what went on during those few weeks when they lived there. I think I always hurried to get back to this part of the book. It was creepier with a bigger ghost vibe and snakes, oh You Will Never Think the Same Way About Snakes . . . . .ever.

I really thought the entire novel was wonderfully crafted and the prose was great, the story flowed quickly. The characters were believable if a bit predictable. The ending was Amazing and it just turned into different answers, first one way, then another, I truly was confused about what the truth was.

I’m not going to ruin the story but I will leave you with this quote “Oh Maggie, she says. “You really shouldn’t have done that. “ Unease slams onto my shoulders, so forceful that all of Baneberry Hall seems to shake.” Also it’s a wonder why anyone would build an estate and let poisonous berries grow all over your property even though you have a young child, then you name the place after the plant, craziness. You will all love it, just buy it, you won’t be sorry!!!

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
375 reviews2,775 followers
November 26, 2022
Best Thriller of 2020!

Check out my video here:

Maggie is devastated to learn that her father has passed away and learns that she has inherited a certain property. Her father wrote a book 20 years ago about a time when her family stayed for 20 days at Baneberry Hall until they fled for their lives. The book become a sensation, a best seller. However, why did Maggie's father hold onto the property for all of these years? Is the book true?

Well we are about to find out! The book is absolutely page turning, flipping between present day and back to the book by Maggie's father.

Can you figure out what happened? Best thriller of the year so far!

2023 Reading Schedule
Jan Alice in Wonderland
Feb Notes from a Small Island
Mar Cloud Atlas
Apr On the Road
May The Color Purple
Jun Bleak House
Jul Bridget Jones’s Diary
Aug Anna Karenina
Sep The Secret History
Oct Brave New World
Nov A Confederacy of Dunces
Dec The Count of Monte Cristo

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Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,363 reviews9,422 followers
April 2, 2021
UPDATE: $2.99 on Kindle US today 4/2/21

4.5 stars!

Because this is a mood!

I thought it was a man, although I couldn’t be sure. Details were sparse. All I could make out was a distinctly human shape standing in the forest a few feet from the treeline.

I highly enjoyed this book! The creepiness of it, the 'what the hell' moments, they were just what I expected from Riley Sager. AND, naturally with his books, I went one way with all of the answers and he went somewhere else totally!

On to the next, Mr. Sager, I’m waiting .......

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾

BLOG: https://melissa413readsalot.blogspot....
Profile Image for Larry.
76 reviews8,794 followers
October 9, 2020
Unapologetic cover of Hill House until the very end, but in my opinion, not on same level as that classic.
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,031 reviews2,555 followers
August 29, 2020
Hang on to your hat, your Ouija board, and stop thinking too much and you will be in for a spooky, twisty ride. Maggie Holt's father wrote a book about a house that the family lived in for twenty days, when Maggie was five years old. The experience was a horrible one and the family ran from the house, with just the clothes on their backs, leaving everything else behind, when they abandoned it. Her father than wrote a nonfiction book about the house and what happened during those twenty days but Maggie has no memory of what was in the book and thinks that her dad invented the story. 

Now, twenty five years after they left the house, Maggie's father has died and she finds out that he never sold the house after they left. Since her mom and dad wouldn't answer any of her questions about the book and their time in the house, just saying that the book is true, Maggie is going back to the house to find answers, despite her father telling her not to ever go back to the house. Maggie's time spent in the house, in the present, is every bit as crazy as what was related in the book. 

Home Before Dark alternates between the story that Maggie's father wrote and present day Maggie living in the house, with the intent to refurbish it and sale it. It's a great way to compare what her father wrote to what Maggie finds out as she researches the house and it's history. Lots goes on, almost too much to keep up with at times. Did Maggie's parents lie about the past or is something wrong with Maggie, that she can't remember any of what is written in the book?

Published June 30, 2020

Thank you to Dutton/Penguin Publishing Group and Edelweiss for this ARC. 
Profile Image for jessica.
2,475 reviews29.6k followers
September 23, 2020
okay, i know my mom has always said i have an overactive imagination, but this book legitimately freaked me out. i shouldnt have read this at night. 😱

this is definitely RSs best book so far. its not exactly fast paced, but the content is just sooo gripping. i love the back and forth between the events maggie is experiencing in the present and the narrative of her fathers book describing the events of 25 years ago. the writing feeds off of the readers imagination, so if you mentally imagine scenes vividly as you read, then this will be a lot of scary fun for you!

my only complaint would be about the ending/reveal. but this is totally a personal preference.

im super eager to see how RS is going to top this with his next book!

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Debra .
2,124 reviews34.9k followers
July 13, 2020
I really wanted to love it......

I did enjoy it, but I felt this book wasn't as good as his previous books. I do love a good haunted house/ghost story but found nothing scary about this book at all. So I am in the minority on this, but it failed to wow or shall I say scare me.

But it did entertain me. I just felt that some elements of the book fell flat. The Amityville Horror this is not. I did enjoy the book within a book concept and I thought he did pull that off nicely. Plus, there is a nice little reveal at the end which I did not see coming.

All in all, enjoyable but disappointing at the same time.

There are things that go bump in the night but this was more like a thud.
Profile Image for Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill.
503 reviews623 followers
September 14, 2020
Okay Riley you did it...you have made it to my all time favorite thrillers list! I am sure he is so pleased..🤣🤣...You are now up on the ledge with Peter, Liz and Samantha...no last names needed, they are like Madonna.....No but really...this book just flew to the top of my must read books. I loved every single thing about this book...literally everything.

What made this book so special? The atmosphere. If you haven't read a Riley Sager book, he is the master of creating such an atmospheric feel that you can imagine yourself right there. Which each book it gets stronger. I have not read Final Girls.. I know, right?! That is coming in October..but The Last Time I Lied, Lock Every Door and now this book the feelings get more real.

Maggie Holt inherited her childhood home (of 20 days) that they fled in terror. Lucky Maggie. Most of Maggie's memories are from the book that her father wrote about the home. Aptly named The House of Horrors, the book told of the terrifying 20 days the family lived there. So why did her father hang on to the house for 25 years? Who knows...better question why does Maggie go back?!

I love a story with a creepy house, ghosts and a great story! This book is perfection. Why did it take me so long to read? AGHHH long story. I was reading this towards the end of March, because I couldn't hardly wait. I was also working in the ER as a nurse. Enough said. I was there the first three days in a row that we saw our first Covid patients and it was insane and stressful. I skimmed through this book, threw it aside and admit I have NO idea what happened. I am soooo glad that I reread it with my head on straight because let me tell you this book is brilliant!

Thank you so much Riley Sager for entertaining us with another magical read! I can't wait to dig into Final Girls and hoping he is busy typing out a new one!! He killed it!!
Profile Image for Heather.
369 reviews16.7k followers
June 4, 2020
My favorite Riley Sager book to date.
Creepy maybe haunted house.
Unfolding the mystery of said house with splices of the book the main character's dad wrote about the house.

At first glance this book sounds like horror but it's definitely a thriller that had me guessing.
I really loved it!
Profile Image for Jayme.
1,077 reviews1,642 followers
July 2, 2020
This book begins with a dedication...”For those who tell ghost stories...and those who believe them...” 👻

If this is YOU..read on, as YOU WON’T be disappointed with Riley Sager’s latest-AVAILABLE NOW!

Maggie Holt has just inherited Baneberry Hall, a rambling estate set deep in the Vermont Woods.

Twenty Five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, fled this house in the dead of the night, leaving everything behind, after only 19 days in residence.


And, then THAT song...

“You are sixteen, going on ...”
would begin to play on the old record player left behind...💿

The song, cut off by the noise that always arrived at 4:54 AM


A house remembers.....

At least that’s what Maggie’s father claimed in his best-selling NON-FICTION book, “House of Horrors”....a book that Maggie doesn’t believe a word of.

She was only five, when they lived in the house, and she doesn’t remember the people or events mentioned, or the “ghosts” she was terrified of, “Miss Pennyface” and “Mister Shadow”.

In fact, she is downright angry that the book defined her and she feels exploited. 🧸

But once she returns to the old Victorian home, to renovate it, in preparation to sell and begins to experience the strange occurrences chronicled in her father’s book, she begins to wonder, if perhaps he really was telling the truth...

I loved how the story was a “book within a book”....the chapters from Ewan’s best seller, alternating with Maggie’s current day perspective.

AFTER you read the LAST chapter, go ahead and reread the first one......

Than You to Edelweiss, Dutton Publishing and Riley Sager for the digital ARC I received in exchange for a candid review!
Profile Image for Nicole.
369 reviews12.5k followers
January 3, 2022
Niezła, ale nie bez wad. Chyba liczyłam na więcej.
Profile Image for Michelle .
845 reviews1,181 followers
March 25, 2020
When Maggie was just a child her parents purchased Baneberry Hall. Having left behind a cramped apartment in the city Baneberry Hall seemed like the ideal place to raise a family. However not soon after their purchase it appears that not all is well within the walls of Baneberry Hall. Strange noises fill the night and young Maggie has begun speaking to imaginary friends. Her father, a writer, becomes obsessed in the tragic history of Baneberry Hall and he is convinced that there are restless spirits within their home.

Present day, Maggie is now an interior designer and her father has recently passed away. She is informed that her father has left her Baneberry Hall. After all these years she assumed that he had sold it. Her father wrote House of Horrors after they escaped into the night to never return again and the notoriety of that book has turned her life upside down. She doesn't remember her time there. All she has is the book her father wrote and in which she believes is a book of lies. As she returns to Vermont and to Baneberry Hall she convinces herself that she will find out what happened that summer and why they fled.

This book started off strong and I was really enjoying the Amityville vibes this was giving off. We have the two timelines running: Maggie in the present day and her father in the past as they moved into Baneberry Hall and it is during these chapters where we learn of their time spent there and what the reason is for the escape.

I loved the flashback chapters but I found the Maggie chapters became boring or better yet she was boring so her chapters weren't nearly as compelling.

That ending, say WHAT? Now THAT is ridiculously stupid. 2.5 stars!

Thank you to Edelweiss and Dutton for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,682 followers
August 3, 2020
This is another book that I listened to with my wife during our “couch time” in the evenings. Nothing like curling up with someone you love and listening to a creepy story!

With Riley Sager, I have come to be able to count on a pretty decent thriller. Home Before Dark is no exception.

Chills, thrills, mystery, and mayhem are all included here. I enjoyed the format of going back and forth between a book written by one character about a mysterious and likely haunted house and another character’s experiences in the same house years later – no more or it will get spoilerish. With hearing what may have happened years ago and wondering if something like it might happen again, each chapter was suspenseful and had me making conjectures about what was true and what was make believe. This also led to many “ah-ha!” moments. Throughout the whole thing I really felt invested in trying to help solve the mystery, too.

I have not really looked into the background on why Sager wrote this story or what went into it, but I am guessing that Stephen King came into play a lot. Many plot points felt like homage to King – small town New England, creepy haunted house, kids tormented by ghosts, etc. And, he mentions King’s books several times throughout. It was almost like a scavenger hunt looking for the references.

While I did like Sager’s previous offering, Lock Every Door, a bit better, this was still a very good book and worth checking out if you are looking for a good mystery/thriller.
Profile Image for Tina.
2,302 reviews1 follower
July 24, 2022
This is a thriller/Horror. There is two point of view in this book the father's after they just moved into the Baneberry Hall and Maggie's right after her father's death. I really enjoyed this book, but I would not say this book was super scary. I loved the characters, and they kept you guessing. I did not see the twists coming.

I picked this book for My book of the Month book. https://www.mybotm.com/zr12wnytgc8?sh...
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
November 19, 2020
oooh, goodreads choice awards finalist for best mystery & thriller 2020! what will happen?



i mean…okay.

this is a rounded-up four because it has a whole bunch of problems, but for every iffy part, there’s a horrific and memorable scene that makes up for it. many of which involve snakes. to be honest, i’m happy enough just being entertained these days—i don’t need to be enriched or educated, i crave diversion, and this book absolutely fits the bill.

it’s a haunted house/family mystery story about a woman named maggie holt who, as a little girl, lived in a house as saturated by the supernatural The Amityville Horror. her family lasted less than a month before being spooked right on outta there, and maggie was only five years old, so she has no real memories of her time there, but, also like The Amityville Horror, her father wrote a best-selling book about their experiences, none of which adult-maggie believes. when her father dies, she learns that he still owned the property, and has left it to her, so, against his dying wishes and her mother’s living recommendation, she decides to check it out on her own.

the novel back-and-forths between chapters of her father’s book and her ‘present-day’ experiences, building up a fantastic head of steam and one helluvan unsettling atmosphere; one striking moment of inexplicable creepiness after another.

i read this in one big gulp, and it’s a spookyfun page-turner, but it’s built upon a highly unstable foundation, which, should you stop to examine or poke at it, falls apart into a real big mess.

you have to believe that . you have to believe that . you have to believe that .

i mean, all of that is so far-fetched a labrador retriever couldn’t bring it back to you, but it also doesn’t really matter, because while those revelations are beyond bonkers, the momentum leading up to them is fantastic, and although you need to suspend disbelief to accept some of the more illogical details, there are strewn amongst them some legitimately satisfying explanations. and also snakes. so many snakes.

overall, it's an effective and engaging ride, and if you can squint your way through the dubious bits, you'll have a lot of fun with it.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Joey R..
231 reviews273 followers
August 1, 2020
4.0 stars— After reading all the great reviews of Riley Sager’s “ Home Before Dark” and realizing it was an old fashioned haunted house/ghost story I knew I had to read it. This was my first Sager book and after completing the novel in about a week, I have to say I was very impressed. The book is written from the perspective of Maggie Holt, who decides to return to live in and to renovate a famous haunted house she lived in when she was 5 years old. Her father had written a best selling book about their ghostly experiences there that Maggie never believed. When her dad dies and leaves her the old house, she returns there to see for herself whether the home is truly haunted and to renovate the home to sell it. She immediately begins experiencing some strange occurrences herself which leads her to investigate what is causing these to happen. The book is very entertaining and never leaves you bored. I especially enjoyed the way the author alternates between Maggie’s present day experiences and those of her dad from twenty five years ago as detailed in his book. The book could have been 5 stars —but the author’s ridiculous contrived ending was not what this otherwise wonderful book deserved. However, I definitely will read Sager again as her writing ability is fast paced and suspenseful and well worth your time.
Profile Image for Danielle.
776 reviews364 followers
April 28, 2021
Alright... this was a pretty darn good thriller/mystery/ghost story 😱 I listened to the audiobook, which is pretty good. I would not suggest listening to it at night though! 😳 It freaked me out one night and I had to turn it off and watch some wholesome TV to get it off my mind. 😜 I feel like there were a few loose ends, but otherwise it’s worth the read! 👍
October 13, 2022
earworm (noun): a song or melody that keeps repeating in one's mind

If you are at ALL familiar with The Sound of Music, expect Home Before Dark to make "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" the earworm that just won't quit!

Oh, and to be looking over your shoulder and around every corner...this is one ghost story that will haunt your dreams...or perhaps fuel your nightmares!

Maggie is on a mission: her childhood was disrupted quite violently after a stint at Baneberry Hall, a creepy mansion straight out of your stereotypical Gothic horror novel, where her family spent three eerie and terrifying weeks before departing suddenly. Maggie's father Ewan's nonfiction account of the family's time spent at the estate, House of Horrors has given her a sort of infamy she'd rather live without. When Maggie's father passes, however, she has the impetus to renovate the hall and sell it, as she has inherited the property. Her return raises more questions than it provides answers and Maggie is more desperate than ever to piece together the pieces of her past that remain foggy and parse the truth from the fiction.

After all, ghosts aren't REAL. The thumps and bumps, the flashes of the chandelier...the bells that toll on their own...and of course, the aforementioned song starting over and over on the record player...does Maggie NEED to be canny and careful? Did her father leave a trail of breadcrumbs in his wake...and will the truth she discovers be enough to keep the spirits at bay?

Riley Sager is a horror and mystery buff, and clearly a student of film, and each of his books manages to pay tribute to different types of these stories without feeling TOO referential. The book within a book format works neatly to detail the House of Horrors and there are obvious nods to Amityville here, although since I'm still unfamiliar with that story (!) I couldn't tell you what they are. I certainly am a student of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, however, so I loved the use of the Sound of Music song and I don't think I'll ever be able to listen to the song the same way again! The ghost(s) and their exploits were by far the most entertaining part of this book for me. I've been saving this book to read at Halloween since, well, LAST Halloween, and it was a solid choice for sure.

In terms of the actual PLOT though...I have mixed feelings. I think Sager tends to try to go for the killer twist a few too many times in his books, and while I always enjoy the ride, by the end I sometimes end up wishing there were fewer twists and a different sort of resolution. At the end of Lock Every Door, for instance, I remember thinking how sad the ending was: SAD, but not scary. In this case, I wasn't a huge fan of Maggie as a character, so I wasn't particularly invested in her journey, so the fact that the ghost story starts so strong, builds to a crescendo, and then peters out entirely was a bit disappointing. I like ghost stories that keep me creeped from page one until the ending, much like McMahon's The Invited, where even the last line had me wanting more and more.

Home Before Dark is perfectly suited for Halloween, with dark nights and foreboding atmosphere aplenty. While I was hoping for a bit more of a creepy and leading ending, I did get the following:

Thrills ✅
Chills ✅
Ghosts ✅
*Incentive to listen to something, ANYTHING other than Rodgers and Hammerstein

*for at least a week, anyway! 😉

4 spooky stars!
Profile Image for Holly  B (busy month catching up).
788 reviews1,737 followers
April 22, 2020
DNF at 63%

Really loved his last two novels, BUT

This one is just not working for me and I've tried finishing other books and coming back to it three separate times.

Sometimes its better just to move on.....
January 20, 2021
4+ gothic and atmospheric stars for my first book by Riley Sager!

Maggie Holt returns to the home her family abandoned twenty-five years earlier when she was five-years-old. Her father wrote a book that made her family famous. The book revealed the eerie and haunting experiences her family faced while living in the house. Maggie has no personal recollection of the happenings in the house that caused them to flee one night and never return. After inheriting the house, she wants to renovate and sell it to move on with her life.

This story is told through two narratives: Present Day with Maggie at the house and chapters from the book her father wrote. I LOVED the way this flowed! A book within a book was so clever! It kept me gripped and invested from start to finish. Maggie was an awesome character who I loved rooting for. The house was an amazing character in itself! The writing was so powerful - highly atmospheric and chilling. I instantly connected with the writing and it kept me completely engrossed until the very end.

There were some elements that were unrealistic, but I could easily overlook them and go with the story because the writing was so smooth and engrossing. I was completely wrapped up in the mystery surrounding this old “haunted” mansion. I will never think of snakes or bedroom furniture the same way.

So glad I gave this author a try. I’m looking forward to reading his backlist.

Thank you to my lovely local library for the loan.
Profile Image for Rachel Reads Ravenously.
1,787 reviews2,130 followers
October 21, 2022
Reread October 2022

4.5 stars!

This book gave me all the Haunting of Hill House tv series vibes and I was here for it!!!

When Maggie Holt was a small child, she and her family fled Baneberry Hall and never when back. Twenty-five years later, she and her family is famous because of a book her father wrote about the experience. The thing is, Maggie knows everything in the book to be false. So when her father passes, she returns to Baneberry Hall to renovate and sell the house. Except memories are coming back, and some things from her father’s book might actually be true.

I listened to the audiobook version of this book and I was completely enthralled. I normally just listen on my commute to work, but found myself taking walks around my neighborhood just so I could have an activity to listen to this book even more. I have to say, I didn’t guess many of the twists which was really great. The flashbacks were done really well, between the book her father wrote and the present day. I loved how this story was all woven together!

I’m definitely a fan of Riley Sager after reading this book and I want to read his entire backlist now!
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