A Book Spy Review: ‘Home Before Dark’ by Riley Sager


Sager offers up another twisting tale of thrills in his latest novel, Home Before Dark.

At one point, early on her life, Maggie Holt lived in Baneberry Hall, a large Victorian estate hidden deep in the Vermont woods. Now she’s just inherited the place following her father’s death, but there’s nothing cozy about the long lost home. And many believe it to be haunted.

Twenty-five years ago, Maggie escaped Baneberry Hall alongside her parents, Ewan and Jess. In many ways, that’s just the beginning. In the following years, her father published a nonfiction book called House of Horrors where he chronicled ghostly encounters and evil spirits lurking in the home’s shadows. The book went on to sell well—becoming a bestseller even though not everyone believes Ewan’s horror stories—and eventually became a culture phenomenal much like Jay Anson’s controversial book The Amityville Horror.

In the present day, Maggie—now a designer who renovates old homes—decides to drive back up to her old family estate and have a look around. Having no memory of the events that took place during her childhood, all that Maggie knows about Baneberry Hall comes from her father’s book, which she doesn’t believe a single word of. Smart, tough, and a realist, Maggie doesn’t believe in ghosts, but she does believe in her ability to resurrect old houses and flip them on the market, which is just what she plans to do. Things, however, don’t go according to plan.

The local community, still upset by the impact of Ewan’s, isn’t exactly happy to see Maggie back in town. Worse yet, though, is Baneberry Hall itself, which she finds to be every bit as creepy as her dad suggested—a feeling that quickly morphs into terror as she begins to experience the same phenomenons her dad wrote about. But, could it really be ghosts haunting her, or is there another explanation that makes more sense?

Her homecoming officially ruined, Maggie quickly finds herself in a nightmare scenario, and the only way out may be to channel her father through his work in hopes of making sense of things long enough to escape before it’s too late . . .

Ever since Final Girls, Riley Sager has struggled to recapture the magic that made that book so special. That’s not to say that his other offerings weren’t fun to read, but they lacked the punch that made Girls a must-read thriller back in 2017. Now, though, he’s refound his footing, treating his fans to another scary-good adventure that sucks readers in and refuses to let go. It might not be for everyone, but fans of horror and nail-biting suspense will gobble it up, no question.

One of the best things about the way Sager presents the story is that readers get to hear from both Maggie and her father, who weighs in through snippets of his book that are sewn into the chapters. Those passages are some of the book’s best and are scary enough to have even the toughest readers opting to leave the lights on as they flip through the pages. Think Ezekiel Boone’s The Mansion, but with more Stephen King-like plotting and slightly better character development.

Fast-paced, well-written, and terrifying in all the best ways, Riley Sager’s Home Before Dark is as gripping as anything he’s ever written.

Book Details

Author: Riley Sager
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1982104066
Publisher: Dutton
Release Date: June 30, 2020
Real Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10



Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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