Thursday, October 08, 2020

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

 

First Line: Every house has a story to tell and a secret to share.

Twenty-five years ago, five-year-old Maggie Holt and her parents moved into Baneberry Hall, a Victorian mansion in the Vermont woods. Three weeks later, they abandoned it in the dead of night. Maggie's father, Ewan, recounted their ordeal in a massive bestseller, House of Horrors. That book is the bane of Maggie's life. She hates it and believes that her father-- whom she does love unconditionally-- is the most dishonest man she's ever known because she doesn't remember anything in the book actually happening. As far as she's concerned, it's all lies.

When Ewan Holt dies, Maggie (who is now a restorer of old homes) returns to Baneberry Hall to renovate it for sale. She finds that the locals hate the book as much as she does, and that leads to an uneasy homecoming. Then strange things begin to happen-- straight out of her father's book-- and Maggie begins to wonder if the fiction is really fact.

 ~

I was in the mood for a scary house book, and Riley Sager's Home Before Dark delivers. Baneberry Hall (why would someone name his mansion after poisonous berries?) joins the ranks of my favorite spooky abodes with Shirley Jackson's Hill House and others. The first sentence pulled me right in because I do believe that houses can have stories and secrets to share, that people's experiences can somehow soak into the plaster and beams. One of the locals tells Maggie, "From what I've heard, that house hasn't witnessed a lot of love. It remembers that pain. What you need to do is make it forget." The question is, does Maggie have what it takes to make Baneberry Hall forget a very painful past?

Although other architectural details-- like the interior of the town library (!), that armoire in the Indigo Room, and others that shall remain nameless-- have landed firmly in my memory, Maggie Holt's journey to enlightenment has, too. She's a woman who doesn't know how to quit, especially when three momentous weeks of her childhood are coming to light. She's stubborn and distrustful, and she needs a lot of convincing, but Baneberry Hall gets the job done. Just how it does that, you'll have to find out for yourself.

Probably the best thing about Home Before Dark should please all those who don't care for any paranormal elements in their reading. Logic plays a very large role in uncovering the truth of Baneberry Hall's history-- but that doesn't mean I'd walk into that mansion without feeling the hair on the back of my neck stand up. If you like being pleasantly spooked and solidly entertained, this is the book for you.


Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

ISBN: 9781524745172

Dutton © 2020

Hardcover, 400 pages

 

Standalone Thriller

Rating: A-

Source: Purchased from The Poisoned Pen.

14 comments:

  1. I was thinking about this book when I read about it. The fact that it's eerie and yet not paranormal is a draw for me. Logical explanations draw me in.
    Ever the great Sherlock Holmes could come upon the most unlikely murders in seemingly impossible circumstances and yet find a scientific explanation.
    So, I will put this book on my list.

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    1. I hope you get a chance to read and enjoy it, Kathy. I used to be able to tolerate a higher level of "woo woo" than I can now, so I was very happy to see logic rule the day in this book.

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  2. Hmm I think I’d be disappointed at the lack of paranormal element. Thanks for sharing your thoughts

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  3. Houses can have personalities, pasts, etc., just as much as people do, I sometimes think. And it sounds like the house is one of the main characters here, Cathy - I love it. The spooky aspects of it sound intriguing, too. A good choice for this time of year!

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  4. I've really liked the books I've read by Riley Sager. I have this one, but haven't read it so far. Thanks for reminding me that this is a good time to pick it up and give it a go. I suspect I will like it very much.

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    1. This was my first book by Riley Sager, but I've already bought another, so it won't be my last.

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  5. Sounds like fun. I lost the capacity to be scared or horrified by books some time ago, and I've often wondered it's because I've now read to many true crime books based on things that really do horrify me.

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    1. True crime can do that to a person. I used to read a lot of it myself. That little tingle or feeling the hair stand on the back of my neck is about as scared as I get.

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  6. I think I'd like this one! I want a little spookiness, but not horror. Haven't found anything so far this season, although I've tried and abandoned a couple.

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    1. This definitely isn't horror, and I think you'd like it. I hope you give it a try.

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  7. This does sound good. I do not like true crime,as I live in a big city and there is true crime. Crimes against women or children, in particular, are often sensationalized on local news, and I don't "relax" reading about these horrible crimes or getting into the minds of perpetrators. I think it's important to know why people kill, but I don't want to get into their minds or know the gory details. Ugh.
    But this book sounds fine. Also, "The Quickening" by Rhiannon Ward, an English writer, is a Gothic mystery, set in 1925 England. The setting is an old mansion. There are eerie elements, and the protagonist is a woman photographer who ignores conventional mores. But it's not scary, but does have a touch of the paranormal.

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    1. Not all my reading is done to relax. Most of my true crime reading was done when I went to college and found myself out of my petty crime/village environment and thrown into a big city landscape. It was also spurred on by having "brushes" with both Ted Bundy and Gary Gilmore. I read to understand. Now I'm in an even bigger city and have experienced crime firsthand. I no longer read it.

      Thanks for the heads up about The Quickening.

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