Every house has a story to tell and a secret to share”Riley Sager – Home Before Dark
When Maggie Holt was five years old, she and her parents spent 20 days living in Baneberry Hall, a creepy mansion with a dark past. Maggie’s father wrote a story about their days in that house, claiming it was a horror house. Maggie doesn’t remember anything and doesn’t believe a word in her dad’s “horror novel”. After her dad passes, Maggie finds that the house is now hers and she decides to go get it ready to sell. Despite her father’s final warning to Maggie to not go back, she goes to try and uncover the truth in those dark and horrifying 20 days, even if it means unburying some old ghosts.
This was a much anticipated read for me and I finally got it from Book of the Month. I knew close to nothing about this book but was very intrigued by the cover and the title, so I went out on a limb and gave it a shot.
The first 40 pages or so of this book, I was a bit irritated because it was very similar to the Netflix series, the Haunting of Hill House. I read that book and the series was nothing like it…this book does a better job outlining and telling that story, that one would easily think the show is based off of this book. The haunted house, the short stay, the spooky things happening, the grounds keeper, etc., all are things that were part of the show too! However, I love a Haunting of Hill House and was quickly over my irritation. I almost wished that the show was based off of this book (but maybe the book was based off the show…who knows?!).
The writing of this book was fantastic. The chapters rotated from Maggie’s perspective to the chapters in her father’s novel. It was so interesting to be able to read a book inside of a book. Sager did a phenomenal job connecting the present perspective with the book’s perspective. For example: One of Maggie’s chapters ends with the sentence; “Some promises do indeed need to be broken” and the next chapter (from her dad’s book) starts with “I need you to make a promise”. This happens quite a few times and I loved how it flowed so nicely even though it was two different perspectives. The chapters complimented each other very well.
I also think that having this “book in a book” aspect added to the mystery and suspense of the story. I was so invested in the story Maggie’s dad wrote, that I was believing every word of it, even if Maggie didn’t (maybe I’m gullible?). His book really brought the horror aspect of the story and then intensified the things Maggie felt and experienced during her short stay as an adult.
I enjoyed Maggie very much. Seeing the story unfold through her eyes and watching her hatch out the mysteries of the house step by step was fascinating. Having to dive into this time of her life that she only knew from the pages in her father’s book was hard for Maggie. It added to the suspense of the story. I found myself trying to decide if her father’s book was fiction of non-fiction and then I was on my toes as Maggie began digging into the past of Baneberry Hall.
Holy Plot-Twist x 2! I didn’t see the ending coming at all (also because I’m dumb when it comes to twists). I was thrown through a loop twice at the end of this book and I loved every second of it! Sager did a fantastic job building the characters, the suspense, making readers formulate their own ideas, and then he threw a wrench in everything and had me reading faster than ever before!
I couldn’t put this book down. From the first chapter I was invested in what was happening in Baneberry Hall. I also loved that the house itself was portrayed as a character; “it never forgets”, “it remembers”, “it breathes”, things like that make the house so much more than just a setting. Some of my favorite thrillers have the setting become like a character and I can add this book to that list too!
There were some parts where I would have liked some more description or scare factor, but other than that, I can’t complain about this book! It wrapped up nicely and I didn’t feel like it was rushed or dragged on. I’ll say it again too, I REALLY loved the book inside of a book writing style too. I recently read Colleen Hoover’s Verity and that also has a similar writing style (I enjoyed that book too, a fun mystery…also a bit creepy).
Overall, I can’t rave enough about this. I’m going to talk my fiance into reading this book because he also loves the Haunting of Hill House and I think he’ll love this book. I may or may not have been raving about it when I finished and it got him interested.
So…if you got anything out of this, let it be to READ THIS BOOK! If you like a good thriller/mystery, this is a great one to try! It had my skin crawling a few times and I was definitely creeped out too!
Buy this book here!