Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager #ghostficton #ghostsuspense @riley_Sager

Last week I reviewed Riley Sager’s Survive the Night, which released yesterday. Home Before Dark has been on my Kindle for some time, buried among the books I keep buying. When I realized I hadn’t read it yet, I set out to correct the oversight immediately. This one is another “Wow! Just Wow!”

BOOK BLURB:

In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls?

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. 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 toMaggie’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 REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve come to realize the great thing about a Riley Sager book is that they’re all so different. This time around, he delivers a good old-fashioned ghost story. No gore or horror, just plenty of eerie happenings that deliver goose bumps, shivers and chills.

Maggie Holt has inherited Baneberry Hall, a house she and her parents fled in terror in the middle of the night when Maggie was five years old. She has no memory of the supernatural events that occurred in the house, but thanks to a best-selling nonfiction book her father wrote (think Amityville Horror) the whole world knows what took place during the twenty days her family lived there. Her life has been defined by “the Book” as she has come to think of it. Neither parent will talk about that time. Now, with the passing of her father, Baneberry Hall comes to her. The house has been uninhabited since the night her family fled, leaving all of their belongings behind. 

Maggie plans to renovate the house and sell it, but in the process, she is determined to discover what really happened during those twenty days and nights depicted in the Book. 

The story alternates chapters between Maggie’s POV in the present and chapters from the Book. The latter are told in her father’s POV and cover the supernatural happenings at Baneberry Hall.

Once again, Sager delivers a twisty page-turner. It’s difficult to say much about this one without giving away spoilers. I will mention that I loved the creepy ringing of room bells, the chandelier in the Indigo Room, and the session with the Ouija board. The ghosts—Mister Shadow and Miss Pennyface—are the definition of eerie, and the history of the families that occupied the house previously is played for massive goose bumps.

Numerous twists and turns near the end had me trying to pick up my jaw from the floor. As soon as I thought I was on firm footing, Sager yanked the proverbial rug out from under me again. This is mind-blowing storytelling at its best, especially if you are a fan of ghost stories that twist like a corkscrew and prickle your skin. Another stand out read from a stand out author!

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Survive the Night by Riley Sager @riley_sager #thriller #suspense

Striped kitten lying on open book, eyeglasses resting on pages. Book and kitten on white blanket

You know when you read a book that blows you away, and you can’t stop thinking about it, talking about it, rehashing all the twisty bits in your mind? You loved it so much, you have to refrain from going back and reading it again? Well, I thoroughly plan to read Survive the Night again, just not right away. I’m still digesting the first go-round.

If you’re not familiar with Riley Sager, I recommend correcting the oversight pronto. He’s another of my auto-buy authors. I’ve read all of his releases with the exception of one, currently waiting on my Kindle. I’ll stop with the fan girl stuff now, and get to the book and my review so you can see why I’m over-the-top jazzed about this one. 🙂

BOOK BLURB:

One of New York Times Book Review‘s “summer reads guaranteed to make your heart thump and your skin crawl”; An Amazon Best of the Month Pick; Named a must-read summer book by The Washington PostVultureBuzzFeedForbesEntertainment Weekly, CNN, New York PostGood HousekeepingE!PopSugarCrimeReadsThrillist, and BookRiot

It’s November 1991. Nirvana’s in the tape deck, George H. W. Bush is in the White House, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.

Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the shocking murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father—or so he says. 

The longer she sits in the passenger seat, the more Charlie notices there’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t want her to see inside the trunk. As they travel an empty, twisty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly anxious Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s jittery mistrust merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

One thing is certain—Charlie has nowhere to run and no way to call for help. Trapped in a terrifying game of cat and mouse played out on pitch-black roads and in neon-lit parking lots, Charlie knows the only way to win is to survive the night.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thank you Penguin Group, Dutton Books, and NetGalley for my ARC.

Wow. Just wow! I devour books by Riley Sager, so it was a no-brainer to request Survive the Night from NetGalley. I never know what to expect when I’m reading a Sager book. Each is so different, yet all are gripping and engrossing. Strangely, I had reservations about Survive the Night. I’m not a big fan of serial killer fiction, but, hey—it was Sager, one of my auto-buy authors—so I was more than willing to take a chance. I should have known he’d knock it into the stratosphere.

Charlie needs a ride from college to her hometown. She’s desperate to put the past behind her after her best friend becomes the third victim of a serial murderer known as the Campus Killer. She meets Josh, also headed to her home state of Ohio, and agrees to ride with him, sharing expenses along the way. But during the long, dark night over deserted back roads, Charlie begins to suspect Josh isn’t who he claims to be. Too much of what he says doesn’t add up, each successive hiccup making her think she may be sharing the car with the Campus Killer, a man who has reason to want her dead. She caught a glimpse of him in the shadows before he killed her friend.

Although this is a book about a serial killer, there is nothing gory or graphic about it. The operational word here is TENSION—with a freaking capital T!!

The story plays out over the course of several nail-biting hours during which the author had me second-guessing myself multiple times. I waffled between frustration, fear, and irritation over Charlie’s actions. Sometimes I was cheering for her, other times I wanted to shake sense into her. It wasn’t until the end when everything falls into place that I realized how deftly I’d been played.

I also loved the use of old movies in the story (Charlie is a film student) and Charlie’s penchant of separating from reality for brief spans for “movies in her mind.” I did spot one of the “reveals” before the last act, but by then, I believe it was expected. And it was so deliciously perfect, those pieces dropping into place were wholly satisfying.

Survive the Night reinforces why I devour books by Sager. He’s a master of suspense who crosses T’s and dots I’s with such subtlety the reader doesn’t even realize how skillfully he orchestrats threads in the background—until they explode in your face.

Definitely among my favorite reads of the year. If you enjoy cat-and-mouse suspense and well-plotted fiction, don’t miss this slick, edge-of-your seat thrill ride!

RELEASE DATE IS JUNE 29 | PRE-ORDER FROM AMAZON