Updated: Feb 27
“Grief is tricky like that. It can lie low for hours, long enough for magical thinking to take hold. Then, when you’re good and vulnerable, it will leap out at you like a fun-house skeleton, and all the pain you thought was gone comes roaring back.”
Home Before Dark is a standalone book created by Riley Sager, who is no newbie with mystery and thriller tales. This book tells the story of Maggie Holt. A young woman who is desperately attempting to free herself from the shadow of the popular best-selling book created by her parents Ewan and Jess Holt. It is an alleged real-life retelling of how their family suffered at the hands of ghosts and violent spirits inside their haunted home. Maggie, however, does not remember any of the things the book describes. Therefore, she believes it to be an elaborate hoax concocted by her parents for money and fame. Despite not believing in the book, it has regrettably made her famous or infamous considering whom you ask. She tries her entire life to separate herself from it, but when the house that started it all is given to her to renovate, she finally uncovers the truth. What she finds is not at all what she ever expected.
Let me start by saying this is the first book I read in the Reading Rush, and I gave it a solid five stars. I would give it ten stars if that were possible, I was entirely surprised with how well written and intriguing this book was. Riley Sager has created a world that I not only believe in but one that I felt like I was a part of. The mystery in this book is constant, and I often kept trying to guess the ending while getting frustrated right along with the characters. When they were frightened, I was frightened. When they were emotional, annoyed, or even relieved, I was not far off with my own feelings. Riley Sager has a way of writing that really immerses you into the story, putting you front and center in the action and I loved every minute.
In this book you get two povs, the first is of Maggie Holt and her experience as she explores the alleged haunted house from the present. The second is of her father, Ewan, which shows the experience he wrote about in his bestselling book. It is easy to tell the difference between each pov, which I loved. Allow me to clarify, sometimes when authors write more than one pov in a book, their voices tend to sound similar. We obviously know they aren’t the same, but their personality and growth are lacking. Therefore, they often come off behaving the same way despite supposedly being two distinct people. Maggie is a skeptic who is often unable to allow her mind to consider possibilities she deems unrealistic. Ewan is a more open-minded individual, even when everyone else around him thinks he’s gone crazy. He believes in the unbelievable and takes the fight to the malevolent spirits that plague their home. I honestly enjoyed both characters; I could see parts of myself in each of them. I loved seeing the growth and the allure of the mystery they were determined to uncover. I also really loved seeing how the chapters in Ewan’s tale often bled into Maggie’s tale. Reminding you of things, you read a few chapters back. It helped with the creepy and scary aspect of the book, which just shows how intelligently written this book is.
The Mystery and Thrill:
It is not always easy for me to get into mystery or horror books because I often find them lacking. I either guess the plot too soon, or they are not as mysterious as they claim. This book, however, did not have that issue at all. Riley Sager did a superb job at sharing the information needed to push the story along, without revealing the entire plot. I’ll be honest, I’m usually good at guessing the plots of books. I can’t help myself, despite it often leaving me unsatisfied. With that being said, you will never, ever guess the plot of this book. I think the ending was a little shaky, but the author set up all the important pieces of information to make the ending make sense. Even though the ending was not as I had expected, I really loved the journey I took to get there. The mystery and thrill factor plays a big part in what makes this book so great. If nothing else, I would encourage you to take part in this if only for the love of feeling like you are inside this haunted home with them.
I honestly loved that this book was not too tied down with a demanding love interest. There was a brief flicker of a possible romance, but it did not take over the book or take Maggie from the main plot. In fact, it added to the plot and made things more interesting. That is all I can say without giving a spoiler. This portion of the book was well executed. I’m not suggesting mystery books don't include any romance. It is just challenging to focus on a relationship, the mcs, and the mystery that we’re unraveling without one of those key points being given less attention. So if your mystery horror has romance, I just prefer if it didn’t overshadow the main plot. Well done, Riley Sager.
I am so pleased I received this book from BOTM; it was brilliantly written and has great longevity. My only regret is reading it in one day; I wish I had taken my time to more deeply dissect everything Riley Sager offered me. I may go back and read it again, so I can thoroughly enjoy the experience of taking my time with an enjoyable book. I will definitely read more from Riley Sager, as I have found my new mystery author!