We’ve all heard the saying “You can’t go home again,” but Maggie Holt decides to do it anyway in Riley Sager’s supernatural haunted-house thriller, Home Before Dark.
The 30-year-old interior designer’s father, Ewan, recently died and, to her surprise, left her a house she didn’t realize he still owned: Baneberry Hall, a beautiful Victorian manse located in the woods of Vermont. Twenty-five years ago, Maggie’s parents bought the house for a song because of its tragic and violent history. They optimistically set out to make happy memories there together but after 20 days in the house they fled in terror. Unfortunately, Ewan’s bestselling memoir about their traumatic experiences achieved massive fame and notoriety that have been dogging and defining Maggie ever since. Renovating and selling the gothic mansion seems like an excellent opportunity for her to reckon with her past and put Baneberry Hall behind her at last—especially since she doesn’t remember the events Ewan wrote about (and is highly skeptical that they ever happened in the first place). Sure, her father made her promise to never return to the house, but if you don’t believe in ghosts, they can’t scare or harm you, right?
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Riley Sager shares how he crafted a literary hall of mirrors.
Sager fans know better, of course, and therein lies the fun. As in his previous bestselling thrillers (Final Girls, The Last Time I Lied and Lock Every Door), the author puts a fresh, clever spin on horror tropes, this time with echoes of The Amityville Horror and “The Haunting of Hill House.” And he amps up the tension by alternating chapters of Ewan’s book with Maggie’s musings, thus putting the past and present on a collision course that readers can, but our heroine cannot, see.
Home Before Dark is a compelling and layered mix of taut psychological suspense, genuinely scary haunted-house terrors and the vagaries of memory, capped off with an inventive and satisfyingly wild ending.