June 18, 2024

Middle of the Night

By Riley Sager
Review by
Riley Sager’s Middle of the Night dances tantalizingly on the edge of horror without ever totally crossing the line.
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Bestselling author Riley Sanger’s latest spooky thriller, Middle of the Night, is reminiscent of a ghost story told around a crackling campfire. This missing-person mystery dances tantalizingly on the edge of horror without ever totally crossing the line.

One summer night in 1994, 10-year-old Ethan Marsh invited his neighbor, Billy, over for a backyard sleepover. When Ethan woke up in the morning, the tent was slashed open and Billy was nowhere to be found. Until that moment, the Marshes’ suburban neighborhood was considered extremely safe, but Billy’s disappearance irrevocably changed the lives of everyone living on Hemlock Circle.

Now 40, Ethan is back in his childhood home, after his parents moved to Florida. He’s not alone either; various circumstances have brought the now-adult children of 1994 back to the cul-de-sac where they lived that fateful summer.

Ethan never recovered from Billy’s disappearance, and being in his childhood home has triggered PTSD symptoms like insomnia and nightmares. Then, in the middle of the night, messages start appearing that seem to be from Billy to Ethan. Ethan can’t help but wonder if Billy is somehow reaching out to him from the afterlife, and he becomes obsessed with solving the mystery, a quest that involves reaching out to the people he grew up with—some of whom want nothing to do with the case. There is also a matter of the Hawthorne Institute, an occult research center that Billy was obsessed with the summer of his death.

Despite its ghostly happenings and some genuine jump-scare moments, Middle of the Night never veers into full-on horror. Instead, Sager builds tension by casting doubt, never letting the reader forget that the shadows in the corner could be ghosts—but they could also be products of Ethan’s own mind, trying to protect him from an even more awful truth. Either way, this thriller unfolds with a frenetic, almost feverish pace that will keep readers hooked, even as Ethan’s own hold on reality seems ever-closer to breaking altogether.

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Middle of the Night

Middle of the Night

By Riley Sager
ISBN 9780593472378

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