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.
I think it’s pretty safe to say I’ll give anything Riley Sager writes a read at this point. I also think I’m probably going to enjoy all of them at this point as well. I was especially excited to give this one a read since it had haunted house vibes and I’m all about a good haunted house setting. I had a blast reading this and I just cannot wait to read more by Riley Sager!
This story focuses on Maggie, whose family fled their supposedly haunted house, called Baneberry Hall, 25 years ago in the dead of night after only being there for a few weeks. Her father then went on to write about their experiences in a vastly popular book called “House of Horrors” which threw the family, the house, and the small town into infamy. After her father’s death she inherits Baneberry Hall and is determined to go back and find out what really happened all those years ago.
So we have supernatural and mystery/thriller vibes going on and they mingle together so, so well! I think it straddled the line between horror and mystery just right. I have to say this book reminds me a TON of the Netflix show “The Haunting of Hill House”, so I would say easily if you enjoyed the show you will probably enjoy this book. The story is mostly told through Maggie’s POV but we do get excerpts sprinkled throughout that are told from her father’s book “House of Horrors” which is told in his POV. This alternating between the past and present day worked really well to build the tension and suspense, especially when Maggie gets to the house and strange things start happening and she is trying to uncover what happened that caused the family to flee in the middle of the night. There are also plenty of little twists throughout that I did not see coming and overall I thought the pacing was very even and I never had any trouble wanting to pick it back up again.
I really enjoyed the setting and gothic feel to Baneberry Hall, it had such a beautiful, eerie atmosphere. I loved the bits of the book where Maggie uncovers some of the house’s history. Those were probably my favorite aspects of the book. However, what I didn’t enjoy so much were that some of the twists or things that ended up happening were a little far fetched. They didn’t quite add up when you put some thought into them. Also I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending but that’s just because I was hoping for something a little less….practical. That’s all I’ll say because I don’t want to spoil it!
Overall I enjoyed the characters, but we don’t see too many people other than Maggie because she spends a lot of time alone in the house. We are told in the book sequences of the story about Maggie’s parents, Ewan and Jess but we don’t see much “interaction” with them since this is set in the past. Then we have Dane, the prior caretaker’s son (who is a hottie, just saying) who Maggie hires to help her do some renovating. And the former housekeeper, Elsa, and her remaining daughter Hannah who also live on the estate grounds. There are a couple other minor characters too and they all kind of weave in and out of the story, there are many little webs being spun with each of them. Overall I think they were all done well enough.
What I Loved:
- Good pacing, interesting twists.
- I liked how many little strings all connected together at the end.
- Great setting, very eerie and Gothic feeling.
- Haunted house/supernatural/paranormal vibes.
- I enjoyed the alternating POVs between the book “House of Horrors” and Maggie’s present day POV.
- Enjoyable characters.
What I Didn’t Love:
- Some of the twists seemed a like a bit of a stretch.
- The ending was a little unsatisfying for me.
Overall I recommend checking out “Home Before Dark” if you’re a horror fan or a mystery/thriller fan. I think it would be a great fit for those of you who are also fans of Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House” as well! This is a fun book that’s worth the read and I think a lot of people will enjoy it.
Trigger Warnings: Death, Murder, Child Death, Some Gore, Violence, Mention of Suicide
**** Huge thank you to Dutton Books for providing me with a copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review ****