Every house has a story. Ours is a ghost story. It’s also a lie.
Published: June 30, 2020
Publisher: Dutton Books
Pages: 416 (Hardcover)
Series: N/A – Standalone
For us, Baneberry Hall is a house of horrors. One that none of us may dare enter again.
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.
Wow wow wow wow.
So I was excited about this book from the second we got the blurb but it took me forever to actually getting around to reading it and I’m so glad I saved it for spooky season reading! This was my first Sager novel (shocking, I know) but it didn’t disappoint! This hooked me instantly and I absolutely devoured it!
This can be perfectly described as a mix between Amityville Horror and The Haunting of Hill House. It’s almost like Sager watched both repeatedly while he wrote the first draft of this novel and I’m honestly not mad about it. It was so spooky and atmospheric, and that’s really what hooked me initially. I love a good dual timeline and getting to visit her father’s book while the current story unfolds really helps propel the story, establish that history that Maggie talks about, and helps keep the spooky atmosphere/vibes.
The “unsuspecting family moves into an estate that seems too good to be true but is actually haunted” is like my favorite trope when it comes to supernatural/paranormal elements in mystery novels so this was like catnip to me. This is a lot more than a ghost story, though. There’s a missing girl. All the sketchy people in town. The family secrets. The history of the house. There’s a lot going on here, and Maggie is determined to get to the bottom of it.
I really liked Maggie as a main character. She was so determined to understand her parents and seek the truth, regardless of what it was. She had all this history hanging over her and you could tell that it was really ingrained in her identity and I think Sager was able to effectively portray her as this strong, capable woman who was just confused about why she was who she was. And the strained relationship with her parents felt very realistic to me, and I appreciated being able to see Maggie grow in her relationship with her mother.
I saw this listed as a horror novel on Goodreads but I’m not going to go that far and say it’s a horror novel. It’s a mystery novel with ghost and haunted house elements. That’s it. It’s creepy and there were parts that I thought were scary and a bit chilling, but a horror this was not. I saw a lot of mixed reviews about this too because some were saying it was too similar to things like Hill House, but what really got me was that I wasn’t expecting the ending at all. Yes, there were a lot of repeated elements in this book, but what really stood out was the mystery and the unraveling and climax of that mystery.
Love love loved this and I can’t recommend it more!
Other Novels by Riley Sager