Riley Sager’s Home Before Dark has been on my literally cannot wait to get my hands on this list since I learned he was coming out with a novel this summer. 2020 has truly been the year of Riley Sager (at least for me) as I reviewed The Last Time I Lied in April and Final Girls earlier this month. Once I knew we would have a new release, I shoved all my other To Be Read books back onto the shelf.
Maggie Holt is a home renovator and flipper – but is also the daughter of a novelist who wrote a haunted house best seller starring Maggie as the main character. Advertised as a true story, Maggie doesn’t believe or remember any of it. The alleged haunted house is now hers as an inheritance after her father’s death and she finally meets the other main characters, all of whom are now infamous with her. Confronted with the past she refused to believe, she begins to wonder if the Book was real all along.
If you’ve seen The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix, Home Before Dark has a same sort of vibe. Creepy house? Check. Kids who see ghosts? Check. The main difference is I didn’t find Sager’s book to be scary. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that it was written poorly. Home Before Dark was written to make you curious, keep you guessing, and surprise you in the end. I don’t think the intention here was to get a few jump scares and leave you unable to sleep at night. It’s a fair comparison between the two, but definitely not the same premise.
Now for the brutally honest truth. I fear that Sager’s main characters are a bit too similar. Women who don’t or can’t remember all the details – the exception to this rule being Lock Every Door. This isn’t to say that they’re the same character rewritten or that their memory is impacted the same way. I was sworn off thrillers in general for a little bit because the main characters were almost always alcoholics and therefore unreliable, so I’m hoping that the “selective memory loss” characteristic doesn’t become a repeat offender.
Maggie as a character is someone I wouldn’t mind spending time with. (I found Quincy from Final Girls interesting, but we wouldn’t be friends IRL.) There are the right amount of characters and each one has a role to play. The pace is slow, but that doesn’t equate to boring. The slow build is a nice contrast to novels that go so fast the reader accidentally overlooks details. What else can you say? It’s characteristically good and with a unique spin of that classic haunted house story.
Would I recommend you add this to your cart and type in your credit card number immediately? Yes – especially if you’re interested in a modern ghost story. I promise, you can read this late into the night and still get a good night’s sleep. A good mystery for everyone to check out.