Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Review: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

by Riley Sager
Release Date: June 30th 2020
2020 Dutton Books
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-1524745172
Genre: Fiction / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.
My Thoughts
Home Before Dark is one of those books where my review is going to differ from more popular opinion, but I have to say, for the last half of this book, I was honestly disappointed about where I could see this story was headed.  I was hoping fervently that I was wrong, but when it ended, there it was. Having read this author before, I was expecting a bit more than what I got. 
What I liked: Well, you always get me with creepy haunted houses, and this one definitely had that.  I love old houses with secrets, lots of secrets, hidden passageways, things that go 'boom' in the night, stories of hauntings and previous misdeeds, lights that mysteriously turn on and off, creepy rooms, and so on.  The town itself was set in the Vermont hills and I am always down with small towns with mysterious circumstances, ever since I was small.  There is something deliciously creep about that type of setting, with old haunted houses, surrounded by creepy woods, and things that go bump in the night.
I even liked the way the book was written, with alternating POVs, The author is a strong writer and has this ability to sweep you in, even if you are suspicious as to the direction the book may be going.  This is probably the only reason why I kept reading as I was hoping there was going to be this big twist at the end and scare the pants off me.  Didn't happen. But even with the strong writing skills, the subject matter itself got a bit boring by the middle and I found myself drifting off and had to re-read some paragraphs which is why I had to put the book away, read something else, and come back to it later.  I think part of the problem is that I wasn't invested in the characters; there wasn't a lot of character development and I just didn't empathize with any of them. Which is too bad because I thought the book had one of the strongest starts compared to his other books. 

And now I come to the actual plot.  Unlike a majority of the reviews I read, I wasn't scared witless.  I have read a huge amount of horror and scary books as well as watched a huge array of horror films,  and this one just didn't do it for me.  For me, the whole Gothic feeling of the big, creepy, haunted house just wasn't there and I didn't get that 'hair on the nape of your neck' feeling when I am scared as I am reading and rushing through the pages to find out what is happening. I really wish it had and was disappointed that it didn't happen as I was looking for a good scare.  So many of the 'scares' used in this book were pretty standard haunted house tropes and I was really looking forward to something new and different, but it didn't happen. I think I could sense where this book was heading, hoping fervently it wouldn't go there, but that ending was ridiculous.  

Home Before Dark was a fail for me in the suspense/horror department although I still do think this author is a strong writer and the potential is there for a really good scary Gothic book.  The book started off quite strong and I had high hopes which were dashed by the middle of the book.  And that ending was ridiculous, to say the least. This book didn't wow me at all, and I would recommend reading something else by this author first before tackling this one.


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