Posts Tagged ‘Home Before Dark’

I may have stayed up late last night reading this one. What can I say? Riley Sager knows how to take a damaged young woman with a past, put her in a scenario reminiscent of famous horror films and novels, and then create a compelling mystery-thriller. Such is the case with Home Before Dark, where Sager takes on Gothic horror and The Amityville Horror.

Home Before Dark follows Maggie Holt, an interior designer who also happens to be one member of a family that experienced an Amityville Horror-esque situation that forced them to flee their newly bought home, the infamous Victorian mansion Baneberry Hall, after only twenty days. Her father Ewan later wrote a book about their “experiences” in the haunted house, which became a bestseller and has forever followed Maggie. Twenty-five years later, Maggie returns to Baneberry Hall, a place she doesn’t even remember, to renovate the house and find the truth hidden in her dad’s book. But as figures from the book emerge as real people and Maggie digs deeper, she finds an even deeper mystery within the manor. One with possibly deadly consequences.

From the start, the novel draws you in and makes it hard to put down. The story switches between Maggie’s present and passages from Ewan Holt’s “tell-all,” House of Horrors, and it’s fun to see how things that “happened” in the past line up with or contrast with what Maggie experiences. I also liked Maggie as a character. You could really feel how much her life has been affected by her family’s deceptions and the popularity of the Book (as she calls it). I almost felt angry at her parents just reading about how much they twisted her life.

And of course, there were numerous twists and turns along the way. I saw none of them coming and they really really kept the tension high and my mind boggled at the possibilities. They’re part of the reason why I was up past midnight last night.

If there’s one thing I didn’t like about the novel, it’s that during the sections quoting the Book, the plot seemed lifted from today’s B-horror films. You know, the kind that have paint-by-the-numbers plots, rely heavily on CGI and jumpscares, and you forget about them a year or so after they release? I get that it’s supposed to be a pastiche or satire of Amityville Horror-style haunted house stories, but at times it felt like I was reading a bad ripoff of The Haunting in Connecticut or one of the poorer Conjuring films. Not really my thing, as you well know.

All in all though, Home Before Dark is a twisty, satisfying read. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Riley Sager’s fourth book a 4.7. Grab a copy, settle into a comfy chair, and prepare to be thrilled. You’ll be “haunted” even after the very last page.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I might get another post out this week, but given that I’m leaving for my trip soon, that’s going to take up my attention this week. And it’ll be really hard to blog until after I get back. Nevertheless, once I do come back, I promise to have quality content for you. Or something you can use to fill five minutes of your life, depends on how you view it.

And in the meantime, if you’re able to come to the fifth annual Indie Author Book Expo in Des Moines, Iowa this coming weekend, please do. I’ll be selling copies of Rose, doing Tarot readings, and interacting with people, and I’d be happy to see you.

Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Since it was announced that King was releasing another collection of four novellas last year, I’ve been looking forward to reading it. The shutdowns due to COVID-19 delayed me getting my copy from the library by about two months (thanks, coronavirus!), but as soon as I had it, I settled down to read it and see how it stacked up against collections like Four Past Midnight and Different Seasons.

It took me maybe two weeks to read the book. What did I think?

Oh God, I was disappointed. I’m a huge King fan, but–oh God. This is definitely not one of Stephen King’s strongest collections of novellas. Out of the four stories in the collection, I disliked or was indifferent to three of them:

The first story, “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” follows a young boy whose relationship with a rich, elderly bachelor takes on a supernatural twist. And while it goes for a creepy coming-of-age story vibe with comments on technology addiction and how business takes place online, it feels like just your average coming-of-age story that tries to be creepy a few times. And not very well. If perhaps the story had dropped some of the literary focus and instead tried to focus on the protagonist through more supernatural terror, I might have enjoyed it a bit more.

The second story, “The Life of Chuck,” is actually three stories in one, all focusing on a man named Chuck Krantz at various stages of his life. And I didn’t see the point of all three stories being included together as one story. The three parts don’t really link up that well except for the titular character, and each has a different focus: the first is an interesting take on the verse from the Talmud “He who saves a life, saves a world entire;” the second is about an impromptu flash mob in Boston; and the third is a spooky ghost story set during Chuck’s childhood. I think if the three parts were released in separate collections, they honestly would have been stronger, especially the first and third. As they are though, I was just left annoyed and confused.

The final story, “The Rat,” is a semi-interesting story about an author trying to finish a novel in a remote cabin during a storm that takes a dark fantasy turn during the last third. And the way it takes that turn is so silly, I’m wondering if King meant for that to be a comedy/horror piece and I missed it. As it is, it’s not going to leave anyone with nightmares anytime soon.

The one story I actually liked is the third, “If It Bleeds,” starring Holly Gibney from the Bill Hodges trilogy (which I haven’t read) and The Outsider (read my review here). In this story, private eye and cinephile Holly Gibney realizes a monster like the one from The Outsider is causing death and misery after a school is bombed. It’s got a great mystery at the center, a thrilling climax, and some nice character development on the part of Holly (who, might I add, is on the spectrum with me. Positive representation!). It’s not exactly top-notch King, but it’s still very good, and I’d check out an adaptation if one were made and it was on a channel/streaming service I have access to (*hint hint wink wink*).

All in all though, If It Bleeds by Stephen King is not going to keep anyone up at night. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the collection a 2.3, and that’s mostly for the titular story. Major King fans are going to read this one, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who’s either a casual fan, a new King reader, or just looking for a scary collection of stories.

For that, I recommend his collection Four Past Midnight.*

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m disappointed that this book didn’t resonate with me, but I already have my next read, Home Before Dark by Riley Sager, waiting for me to start. Hopefully that’ll scratch my horror literature itch, especially if I finish it before it has to go back to the library. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*And would someone please make a movie based on the third story in that collection, The Library Policeman? PLEASE?!!! I would help make it and make it the best it can be if someone did.