If you are looking for a book that will grab your attention right in the beginning and hang on to it right up until the end, then Home Before Dark is a must-have for your book collection. This ghost story mystery takes elements from many classic thrillers like The Shining, Amityville, and House on Haunted Hill. The farther the reader gets into the book, the more the house reveals its past and the main character uncovers more about her family.
Maggie Holt and her parents lived in Baneberry Hall in Vermont briefly twenty-five years ago. One evening, they left the Victorian mansion suddenly, vowing never to return. Maggie’s father wrote a popular nonfiction horror story, House of Horrors, based on their stay in Baneberry Hall. Maggie grew up being identified by this book. Since her parents never wanted to talk about their time in Baneberry, she had to use it as a guide as to what happened and why they left. Now all grown up, Maggie is surprised to inherit Baneberry. She thought that her father sold it long ago. What else had he neglected to tell her? Despite the warning from her parents, Maggie travels to the mansion that she has not seen in twenty-five years with plans to remodel and sell the property.
After her arrival, Maggie meets Dane, the handsome grounds keeper, and Hannah Ditmer, the grouchy part-time housekeeper. Each are descendants of the original families that worked for original family that lived in the mansion. Each has their own stories about the property and those that lived there. Maggie enlists Dane’s help in some of the remodeling, but she begins to suspect him of having an ulterior motive. Dane helps Maggie explore the massive Baneberry Hall and shows her all the areas that really need renovation. However, when Maggie asks him about noises at night as well as the lights and the bells that seem to turn on by themselves, he cannot think of a logical reason why they would malfunction.
Eventually, Maggie ventures into town and meets some of the locals, one of whom is the previous resident of Baneberry Hall. Marta lost her husband and daughter to a murder-suicide right in Baneberry. Her story sounds traumatic, but is there something missing from it? Maggie also runs into the reporter that started the notoriety of her father’s book, who asks for follow-up interviews. Is he so desperate for another big story that he would try to spook Maggie? Slowly, Maggie discovers a hole in the crumbling wall that surrounds the property and a backdoor entrance to the mansion covered in vines. Why wouldn’t Dane or Hannah tell her about that? Are they try to scare her out to keep the house for themselves or is the house truly haunted, like in her father’s book? Riley Sager has created a great mystery/ghost story with Home Before Dark. The chapters alternate between Maggie in present-day and chapters from her father’s book, House of Horrors. The alternating chapters really add to the reader’s ghostly experience while Maggie is trying figure out what is going on with the house and her family. I found myself saying “just one more chapter” really meant at least two.