Book Review: Home Before Dark

I’ll be honest. My first introduction to Riley Sager was his newest release Survive The Night which I found lacking in many ways. I was a bit skeptical about reading any of his other books, but I decided to check out Home Before Dark from my local library.


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.

A house with a past? Possibly haunted? Left abandoned for twenty-five years. All the makings of a good ghost story.

Upon her father’s death, Maggie Holt inherits Baneberry Hall, a place she lived with her parents for twenty days. Maggie was only five when they fled the house in the middle of the night, so her memories there are vague. If not for a book her father wrote, she might night remember anything of it.

Ewan Holt’s book about the brief time they spent in the house became a best seller and the family was a media sensation. The pressure destroyed her parent’s marriage and over the years Maggie asked both of them if the book was true. She became convinced it wasn’t, even though she’s suffered from night terrors all her life.

Maggie’s plans to renovate and sell the house require her to return to Baneberry Hall, but her primary reason is to discover the truth about what happened. She soon learns her father made an annual pilgrimage there on the anniversary of their leaving. Maggie discovers more secrets about the house that “remembers.”

The book is written from two points of view—Maggie in the present day and her father’s account of what happened in “The Book.” There are a lot of strange happenings, such as ringing bells, a chandelier that mysteriously turns on, and mysterious figures seen at the edge of the woods.

This was definitely a page-turner and Sager kept me guessing right up to the end. One of the best ghost stories (without all the ghoul) that I’ve read in a long time.

Review: The Music of The Deep #TuesdayBookShare

Hey, everyone. I’m pleased to report I’m making progress with my Goodread’s challenge this year. In fact, I’m probably doing more reading than writing. But that’s another story. Today, I’m reviewing a book that’s been on my Kindle for a while. It was my first time to read anything by Elizabeth Hall (no relation).

I purchased The Music of The Deep sometime in 2019 after seeing it on a list of recommended novels. It recently came to the top of my TBR list. I had not read this author before, but the blurb and the cover intrigued me, so I didn’t bother to read what others had to say.

My Review

What I expected was a mystery/suspense novel with a bit of the supernatural. The prologue sucked me in. It begins with an older woman, Emmie, standing near a cemetery and looking toward the streets of a small town. I was immediately impressed with the author’s vivid descriptions and how she managed to show readers something terrible, perhaps even sinister, was about to happen.

In the first chapter, the protagonist, Alex, arrives on Saratoga Island. It was then I started to notice the author’s tendency to repeat words. Within a few paragraphs, she told us three times the aroma of cedar filled the air. (Thank you, but I got it the first time.)

Throughout the book, I found several instances where consecutive sentences started or ended with the same words. There were numerous incidents of where the author repeated information within a scene or chapter. I lost count how many times she used the word orca in one passage.

The internal editor in me wanted to say, “You’ve already said that,” or “You can eliminate this word,” or, “Can you not say whale on occasion to break the monotony?”

Despite those “bumps,” I was fascinated enough to keep reading.

What I didn’t expect was for the book to read like a scientific article on the lives of orcas, which it did in several places. There were also numerous facts about victims of domestic violence. The author also pointed out how humankind had destroyed the natural order of things in the world and was responsible for the demise of the killer whales. She did stop at getting too political, something that is a turn off for me in novels even if I happen to agree with the author’s position.

The Music of The Deep was not only about Alex, but also told the stories of secondary characters Emmie and Maggie, and to a lesser extent, Robin. There were numerous flashback scenes woven throughout the book, but the author clearly defined those by starting a new chapter or using a section break so as not to confuse the reader.

For me, the ending was less than satisfactory. There wasn’t a real resolution—not for the orcas (which I would expect), not for Alex, and not for the mystery of a woman who disappeared in the 1980s. If you like things wrapped up in neat, tidy packages, this book is not for you.

However, I still enjoyed this novel. Despite the unsatisfactory ending, I give the storyline five stars. The redundancies in writing and sometimes unrealistic dialogue warrant three stars. Overall, I rate it four.


Fleeing an abusive marriage and tormented by her past, Alexandra Turner finds solace in a small coastal town on Puget Sound and a job with a local marine biologist studying orcas.

After befriending a group of locals, Alex learns that she has moved to a place that has a reputation of being the “most haunted town in Washington.” Such superstitions would be easy to dismiss…if Alex wasn’t already on edge.

Haunted by shreds of memories of her days with her husband, Alex can’t keep from looking over her shoulder. As unexplained sounds and scents accumulate, and unnerving forces seem to take hold, Alex is beginning to believe that she’s not escaping her ghosts, after all. In fact, she might finally be inviting them in.