“Home Before Dark” by Riley Sager Spoiler-Free Review

Amazon Summary: A woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls?

When I first read the description of this book on the Book of the Month app, I was of two minds about it. On the one hand, it looked like an interesting and creepy romp into the supernatural. On the other, it looked suspiciously like a The Haunting of Hill House clone (a young family moving into a supposedly haunted mansion and forced to flee in the dead of night, one of the family members writes a book about the experience, etc).

All the same, I decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did.

It wasn’t the book I was expecting to read, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s far more “creepy” than it is scary and that may relieve or disappoint you, depending on your personal preference. Personally, I was hoping for more “spooky, scary skeletons,” however, what I wound up with wasn’t disappointing.

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I was happy to learn that, as far as similarities to The Haunting of Hill House are concerned, they become practically nonexistent when you get past the superficial. The tone is radically different and, honestly, it’s more of a mystery/thriller than it is a genuine horror novel. Maggie isn’t concerned with appeasing the spirts of Baneberry Hall so much as she is with trying to suss out the fiction from fact.

The mystery element is done especially well and I was surprised with how many twists there were in such a tightly packed story. It truly exceeded my expectations and, even when I thought I knew where the plot was going, the rug was pulled right out from underneath me.

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However, there were a few issues I had with the book.

For starters, the novel’s protagonist, Maggie Holt…is a bit annoying sometimes.

And by sometimes, I mean for 98.7% of the novel.

It’s not because she is stupid or a badly written female character. On the contrary, I was actually surprised to discover Riley Sager is a man since the voice of Maggie is so distinctly authentic. The biggest problem with her, in my opinion, is her constant woe-is-me attitude.

I completely understand her frustration with her parents and their obstinate refusal to tell her the naked truth about Baneberry Hall, but her incessant whining about it made it difficult to sympathize with her plight.

No one:

Absolutely nobody:

Not a single soul:

Maggie Holt: MY DAD WROTE A BOOK AND IT RUINED BY LIFE!1!

Literally everything she talks about has something to do with The Book. Everything bad that has ever happened to her is because of The Book. Her life is so hard because of The Book.

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If you even forget for a microsecond that The Book exists, don’t worry, Maggie will remind you of it.

Until you want to bludgeon her to death with The Book.

Not the mention she uses the word “mansplaining” unironically and, in my opinion, that’s just asking for a slap.

My next issue is that I doubt notoriety would have followed her all the way into adulthood. Home Before Dark takes place a whopping 25 years after her father’s book was published, and she is still being recognized by name.

The Book is still in print, but I find it doubtful anyone but the most diehard supernatural enthusiast would know who she is. Unless a film adaptation was created based on the book and, even then, it’s more likely people would recognize the story but forget the names attached. For instance, if I were to mention the Hodgson family, I doubt many people would know who I was talking about, but they would know what The Conjuring 2 was about.

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I also find it slightly implausible that Ewan Holts publisher wouldn’t make at least a half-hearted attempt at convincing Ewan to change some of the names of the people in his book. I’m a bit rusty when it comes to defamation laws in nonfiction, but I’m pretty sure a book this dubious in nature would have called for some fudging with names so as to avoid a hailstorm of legal issues.

In spite of these minor gripes, I thought Home Before Dark was a fun and exciting book.

Maggie’s constant whinging about The Book does get old, but the mystery of Baneberry Hall is intriguing enough to give it a read.

7.5/10

Thank you for reading!

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