A review by rubeusbeaky
Home Before Dark, by Riley Sager

  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


This book was two books in one, and neither were satisfying :/.

Maggie Holt's father, Ewan, wrote a "tell all" about the haunted house his family bought and then fled. Every beat in this book is Paranormal Activity cliche: Cold fronts, bumps in the night, music or bells playing/ringing of their own accord, lights that seem to turn on or off on their own, wildlife that gets loose in the house, a silhouette sneaking around the property, on and on and on. Because we are told upfront that this book is full of lies, and because it contains SO MANY tropes, nothing about it actually feels sinister. There are no stakes.

The other half of the tale is about present-day Maggie trying to uncover the truth of what happened in this house. In her desperation for a neat answer (and also thanks to an inordinate number of lying adults in her life), Maggie jumps to conclusions many times. I never trusted her observations; any more than half a second's speculation would dismantle her conclusions. (Namely, trying to retrace the motives of any one character.) And there are SO many twists, one person pointing a finger at the next person, then another, etc., that it just becomes laughable, like unmasking the Scooby Doo villain but with 4 masks one on top of the other. I, again, rarely got a sense that anything sinister was going on, only that Maggie wasn't a good observer. And I usually like an unreliable narrator! But this one was, again, laughably unreliable.

Mostly, this book bored me. There wasn't any of the Gothic Horror psychology, like the house mirroring the mental/physical collapse of the protagonist, let's say. Instead, it was a series of spooky moments, like jump scares, which were easily seen through. Not the worst book... but not a thrilling thriller :/.

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