"Twenty-five years ago, Maggie Holt and her parents moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. Three weeks later they fled in the dead of night, an ordeal her father recounted in a memoir called House of Horrors. His story of supernatural happenings and malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism. Maggie was too young to remember any of the horrific events that supposedly took place, and as an adult she doesn’t believe a word of her father’s claims. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When she inherits Baneberry Hall after his death and returns to renovate the place and sell it, her homecoming is anything but warm. The locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous, and human characters with starring roles in House of Horrors are waiting in the shadows. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place where unsettling whispers of the past lurk around every corner. And as Maggie starts to experience strange occurrences ripped from the pages of her father’s book, the truth she uncovers about the house’s dark history will challenge everything she believes."

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager review: horror or whodunit?

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager is a horror mystery novel set in Vermont, United States. It is the story of a woman returning to her childhood home to find out if it is actually haunted as her father’s non-fiction work claims it to be. The book was published by Dutton in English on June 30, 2020. I have listened to the audiobook narrated by Cady McClain and Jon Lindstrom and released by Penguin Audio.

Sony Pictures and 21 Laps Entertainment are adapting it to a movie. The Apple TV+ series of the same name is not related to the book in any manner.

The prose follows the book-within-a-book structure. Alternate chapters are dedicated to first-person narration by the daughter and the protagonist Maggie Holt, and excerpts from her father Ewan’s horror memoir about Baneberry Hall. While she is busy unravelling the mystery of the purportedly haunted house she inherited after Ewan’s death, the readers get to know about the circumstances in which the family fled the house twenty-five years ago in the middle of the night.

The story continues at a fantastic pace. Nowhere did I feel like it was being dragged out, or that I was getting bored from it. The book is a perfect blend of the supernatural and a murder mystery. As a logical reader, I unsuccessfully kept looking for practical reasons behind the ghost elements in the story. The author was so convincing that after every alternate chapter I kept wondering if maybe there aren’t any – until the big reveal hit me in the face unexpectedly. A seamless transition from horror to whodunit.

Purchase your copy of Home Before Dark. Also, refer to its Goodreads listing.

Cover image courtesy of Dutton.

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