Blog tour: 29 July to 6 August 2021
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 a rambling Victorian estate called Baneberry Hall. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a memoir called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon.
Now, Maggie has inherited Baneberry Hall after her father’s death. She was too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist.
But when she returns to Baneberry Hall to prepare it for sale, her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the pages of her father’s book lurk in the shadows, and locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself – a place that hints of dark deeds and unexplained happenings.
As the days pass, Maggie begins to believe that what her father wrote was more fact than fiction. That, either way, someone – or something – doesn’t want her here.
And that she might be in danger all over again …
Twenty-five years ago, Maggie Holt and her family fled from Baneberry Hall, near the village of Bartleby in Vermont, after living there for just 20 days. Maggie was only five and remembers nothing of her time in the house and why they left so suddenly, fearing for their lives. Her parents, Ewan and Jess, refuse to talk about it with her but her father wrote a bestselling book called House of Horrors, which is said to be the real-life true account of their terrifying experiences.
While some people believe the book is all true, others are convinced it is all fake and Maggie, herself, thinks the truth is somewhere in between the two. The book has made Maggie notorious and has affected her whole life – she was an outcast at school and still finds that everyone is curious about what happened and she regularly gets contacted by people wanting to know more.
Ewan Holt has now died and as his sole beneficiary, since her parents’ divorce 22 years ago, Maggie discovers that she has inherited the rambling Victorian estate of Baneberry Hall, which her father never sold. She is shocked by the news but, as an interior designer, she can’t resist going to visit the house to see what state it’s in and decides to spend the summer doing it up to sell, while also searching for clues to discover once and for all what actually happened there.
The story is told from Maggie’s point of view in the present day, alternated with chapters from Ewan’s book, which was written soon after the family escaped the house. This is cleverly done and works well as we follow Maggie’s investigations as the events (real or imagined) are recounted in the book. We learn how the family came to buy the house, as well as some of its past history and then find out about the frightening events that led up to the family leaving Baneberry Hall in the dead of night and never returning.
Maggie was a good protagonist and very brave at times – she seemed to face danger head on and was determined to be fearless and she questioned everything, including the local residents! It was also really interesting to see things from her father’s point of view and learn more about him, even though he was an unreliable narrator and we weren’t sure how true to life his account of events was.
Right from the start, this novel is really creepy and eerie and makes for uncomfortable reading – there’s a strong sense of foreboding and dread and I was just waiting for terrible things to happen! It’s definitely not a book to read late at night and all alone in the house!
Baneberry Hall has a disturbing past with several deaths over the decades and as I read Home Before Dark, I kept changing my mind about what was going on and who or what was responsible. I don’t really believe in ghosts but the evidence seems indisputable as strange and unexplained things keep happening.
Overall, I really enjoyed this twisted, addictive and creepy story. It’s well written and cleverly plotted with lots of suspense and so many freaky occurrences! It’s very atmospheric and gothic with some sinister characters (both real and ghostly). The setting is brilliant and I could just picture the house, its various rooms and the surroundings and the nearby village with a horrible motel.
At first, I thought this book was going to take me ages to read as it’s nearly 400 pages and the font is quite small but it’s a compelling read and I raced through it in a couple of days and was thoroughly gripped by this scary and chilling tale.
I’ve already read Lock Every Door but will definitely be checking out the author’s other books, Final Girls and Last Time I Lied, very soon! And I’m already looking forward to Survive the Night, which sounds brilliant!
Buy the book
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.
About the author
Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name.
Now a full-time author, Riley’s first thriller, Final Girls, was a national and international bestseller that has been sold in 25 languages. A film version is being developed by Universal Pictures and Anonymous Content.
A native of Pennsylvania, he now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
Thanks to Niamh Anderson at Hodder & Stoughton for my paperback copy of Home Before Dark and for my place on the blog tour.
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