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Home Before Dark


Home Before Dark

"Promise me you’ll never go back there. Never ever.... It --- it’s not safe there. Not for you.”

Those were a father’s dying words. Maggie Holt’s father. And Maggie promised that she would never go back there. To Baneberry Hall. But she broke that promise. She justified her actions with the excuse that her parents never told her the truth about those few days their family lived in the House of Horrors, despite her desperate pleas for the whole story.

Ewan and Jess Holt found the wooded estate with majestic Baneberry Hall looming atop its hill, a stately old manor with a checkered past --- and a price tag almost too good to be true. And just maybe it was. The place came fully furnished with everything, including some classic pieces, several appearing quite valuable. They couldn’t believe their good fortune. So they bought Baneberry Hall and moved in. But less than three weeks later, they ran from the house in sheer terror. Maggie still wants to find out what happened the night that caused her father, mother and five-year-old self to flee, leaving everything they owned behind, never to return.

"From the shadowy figures in the woods to the sounds that go bump in the night, HOME BEFORE DARK is certain to creep you out."

Maggie’s father has now died. According to his will, everything goes to his daughter, including Baneberry Hall. She is shocked. She had expected to inherit his estate, but didn’t think that the house would still be part of it. Her mother long ago said she wanted nothing to do with the house, and Maggie assumed her father felt the same. Maggie has become an interior designer who fixes up homes and flips them, so she decides to learn the history of Baneberry Hall, restore it and then sell it.

Ewan wrote House of Horrors in the weeks following the family’s panicked escape from Baneberry Hall as a way to make some money. But the book’s roaring success came as a huge surprise. While it made her family rich, Maggie always hated the notoriety it brought them. She read the book --- many times, in fact --- but remembers their short life there being nothing at all like her father described in its pages. Why did he lie? He swore it was true, just as he swore the place was not safe for her. Never go back. She needs answers.

When she gets back to Baneberry Hall, Maggie discovers the house to be much as she recalls it. Little has changed. She moves into her childhood bedroom, the location of many terrors described in House of Horrors. Of course, she doesn’t believe any of what her father wrote, so why not return to her old room? She sets to work on her plans at once. Hoping to learn Baneberry’s story, she talks to the locals, trying to get them to open up. Baneberry’s reputation for evil happenings keeps their lips sealed. Maggie searches closets and drawers, stumbles upon old photos and memorabilia, and starts to see a dark side to its history. And she finds that maybe her father didn’t make up the entire book after all.

Told in chapters alternating between Maggie’s present day and scenes from House of Horrors, the truth of that fateful night slowly grows clear. You might believe in ghosts; you might not. But a story with a ghost inhabiting a creaky old house and haunting its new residents is simply irresistible. At least in the right hands, and Riley Sager’s definitely are the right hands. From the shadowy figures in the woods to the sounds that go bump in the night, HOME BEFORE DARK is certain to creep you out.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on July 2, 2020

Home Before Dark
by Riley Sager