home before dark review! // to ghost or not to ghost

The title of this post is surprisingly ambiguous but don’t worry! All will make sense shortly! Let’s dive right into it, shall we?

TW/CW: grief, mentions of suicide, murder, grooming, general creepy atmosphere

A girl named Maggie has lived her whole life under the shadow of her dad’s book, which chronicles their two-week stay at Baneberry Hall where they promptly fled from…and never returned to. After her father’s death, Maggie inherits the house and goes there, determined to fix up the place and discover once and for all whether there was any truth to the book about her and the strange occurrences she can’t quite remember.

Last October, I listened to the audiobook of Lock Every Door by Riley Sager and thought it was okay. But this one. Home Before Dark was creepy, twisty, and utterly mind-bending. I went into this story convinced that this wasn’t paranormal, that there must be a logical explanation for the increasingly illogical occurrences happening and slowly but surely felt myself becoming less and less certain. That, my friends, is evidence of brilliant writing. A story that constantly puzzles you, changes your mind, and leaves you feeling bamboozled is an experience to be treasured. Although to be fair, I’m no Sherlock Holmes. I’m more of a John Watson myself.

Maggie is incredible. She stayed in Baneberry Hall virtually the entire book despite all the darkness attached to it. I would have skedaddled the moment night came because haha am I the coward among cowards! She was smart, relentless, and I liked how her views weren’t easily swayed. Quick little tangent though: what is it with men writing female main characters in thriller books? I’m not complaining – Maggie was written very well – but I am confused at this trend I keep seeing in thrillers*. However, at times her perspective was a bit boring compared to other parts of the book.

*i do get easily distracted wow.

With that being said, the other aspect I really adored was how we also get to read from Maggie’s father, Ewan, and his book House of Horrors! The snippets we read gave me strong Conjuring and Supernatural vibes.

I was often very nearly rendered breathless listening to the brilliantly performed part of the audiobook, because wow. The House of Horror chapters always had a feeling of foreboding, alluring curiosity and dread alike, because you knew that something bad was coming but didn’t know what. It both hurt and enhanced Maggie’s chapters. I always hated switching back when things were just getting good but at the same time, it served to make what was happening to Maggie scarier. I just thought it was really well-done!

now i know what you’re all wondering: did i cry of fear? was this actually scary? why didn’t i film myself cowering in fear, clutching one headphone for dear life?

The answers to your rather eloquently put questions are quite simple. I was creeped out but didn’t cry of fear! Mr. Shadow and the wardrobe was probably the worst of it. I definitely got chills at times. But since this isn’t exactly pure horror, I never felt like I had to stop listening.

This is a slower-paced book, I think. Most of it happens in a gothic Victorian house, in a small town. There’s not exactly much in the way of mystery until about halfway through the book. I would consider this more of an atmospheric thriller, with a mystery weaving its way into the story later on. I actually didn’t see most of the twists coming, which was surprising for me. It’s not for everyone, for sure. Home Before Dark is not totally horror, nor thriller, nor mystery. But it is relatively creative, and a breath of fresh air in the genre.

So that’s it! You can add this to Goodreads here. My overall rating for this one is a 4-4.5/5 stars I think. Share with me a good thriller, or your favorite Riley Sager, or a book that did a genre really creatively!

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