REVIEW: HOME BEFORE DARK, BY RILEY SAGER

 

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 to Maggie’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.

When Maggie returns to Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she is hoping to finally settle in her mind what really happened back then, when they lived in the house her father wrote about. Had he written lies, or were the things he wrote about true?

Home Before Dark is narrated alternately by Maggie’s father Ewan, back when the family lived in the house, and Maggie herself as she tries to sort through the discoveries she makes in the present.

Were her family members victims of some ghostly creatures back then? Are the strange events that continue even to this day part of something supernatural?

An enticing tale that kept me turning pages, I was surprised by how all the events unfolded. 4.5 stars.

***

WHEN WALLS CAN TALK — A Review of “The House on Tradd Street”

When realtor Melanie Middleton visits an elderly man to list his house on the market, she learns some strangely disconcerting news. First, her grandfather and the old man were close friends; and secondly, the old man’s mother left him at a very young age, just as Melanie’s own mother had done. Then when her client, Nevin Vanderhorst, dies within days of her visit, she is further surprised that he has left his property to her. The house on Tradd Street becomes hers—all she has to do is live in it for one year. Money for restoration is included in her legacy.

But Melanie knows that ghostly visitors will be joining her, because she has this “gift” of seeing spirits, a gift she’s had since childhood. In fact, she saw some of them lurking about during her visit. So she is not looking forward to her tenancy in this new property.

Not to mention the fact that the house is literally falling down around her.

Melanie and her friends, who are assisting in the renovations, are soon caught up in a rollicking suspense tale, as the ghosts attempt to communicate some secrets that are hidden in the house—secrets that have been there for many generations. Melanie and a writer friend Jack Trenholm work together to uncover the mysteries, and in the process, they become close.

Are the ways in which Melanie’s family and the Vanderhorsts connected a coincidence, or is there a hidden meaning to it all? Will she finally discover why her own mother “abandoned” her at the age of seven? And what will she learn about the mysterious disappearance of Nevin Vanderhorst’s mother?

This suspenseful and dramatic tale,The House on Tradd Street, kept me enthralled until the last page, earning five stars from me.