Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

When Maggie Holt’s family bought Baneberry Hall, an old Victorian house in rural Vermont when she was just five, they all thought they had hit the jackpot! Sure, the house came with a a touch of sordid history, a murder-suicide by the previous seller, and even an accusation of murder against the original owner. His daughter was poisoned and he was charged. But this was the past. Maggie’s family was very stabile.

Until three weeks later when the family bolted from the home in the middle of the night never to return. Unfortunately, Maggie has never been able to remember her time at the house. Now thirty, her only inkling of what happened back then was from a best-selling book her father wrote after the fact about their time at the house and what inevitably led to them leaving suddenly. Her parents would never discuss their time at the house no matter how Maggie tried to illicit information from them. She took what her father wrote with a grain of salt, figuring he needed to make a living and this book would help her family, much to the chagrin of the people who lived in the town and had to endure all the ghoulish tourists. His story was weaved with superstition, ghostly visits, lights and music turning on by themselves and past residents who seemed to be able to communicate all of which came to a head the night they fled.

Maggie had always been embarrassed by the book her father had written and tried her whole life to distance herself from his words. But with her father’s recent passing, she soon discovers that he had never sold Baneberry Hall. It now belonged to her. As a matter of fact, he still went there once a year and stayed overnight. He always went on the date of their last day in the house. So against her mother’s implicit wishes, as well as her father’s last words to her which were for her never to go back there, Maggie decides to fix the property up and sell. And while she’s there look around and see if anything jogs her memory.

Maggie neither believes in ghosts, spirits or hauntings. But what Maggie discovers is startling. She begins to experience similar events which her father had documented in his book. She feels as if the house has been waiting for her return for all these years. Could what he wrote actually have been true?

As we read about Maggie’s experiences in one chapter, we are also able to read her father’s book, “House of Horror” in the next. As the similar experiences begin to add up, Maggie cannot help but feel she had been wrong for all these years. What other secrets did her father take to his grave? Why did he make her promise never to return? Is it possible the house is alive and has been patiently waiting for her return? If so what does it want from her.

What she discovers, and finally remembers will overshadow her father’s book. It will frighten her more than any spirit or ghost. Can Maggie survive the house which seems to have taken so many before her?

Home Before Dark is a scary, haunting, ghost story, which should be read with all the the lights on, pure and simple, the way it seems Riley Sager wants.

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