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 a rambling Victorian estate called Baneberry Hall. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a memoir called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon.
Now, Maggie has inherited Baneberry Hall after her father’s death. She was too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist.
But when she returns to Baneberry Hall to prepare it for sale, her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the pages of her father’s book lurk in the shadows, and locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself – a place that hints of dark deeds and unexplained happenings.
As the days pass, Maggie begins to believe that what her father wrote was more fact than fiction. That, either way, someone – or something – doesn’t want her here. And that she might be in danger all over again . . .
I can hardly believe I’m saying this but this girl here (ok woman, whatever) actually enjoyed a ghost story! Believe me that it takes a writer with very special skills to make me love a ghostly novel. After several tries and misses I know it’s better to avoid these kind of stories but I loved Riley Sager’s previous novels so much that I put my faith in him for that one last try. If I can’t trust him, then there’s really nobody else, and guess what, looking at the rating on top you could say that I finally found a good, better yet a great ghost story.
Maggie is a non-believer, like me, so we were off to a good start. So many strange things were happening though at Baneberry Hall, both in the past and in the present so many years later, that I actually started to waver and the door to believing the impossible was cracked open a teensy tiny bit. Maggie didn’t know what to believe either and although she’s trying to make sense of everything in a logical way, we were both just flailing about. Riley Sager outdid himself in creating the atmosphere and the reporting of the strange events that happened at Baneberry Hall. I loved the historical, tragic background of the house, its haunting look (from the windows that look like eyes to the mention of poisonous baneberries all around the house in the past so it looked like a sea of blood) and hearing about all of the unusual events. Trust me when I tell you don’t want to go asleep when you start reading this :-).
This novel has alternating chapters between her father’s account in the House of Horrors before they fled in the death of the night after a mere 20 days and Maggie’s stay there. Maggie thinks her father lied about what happened there, after all she can’t remember any of it, nor does she recognize herself in the girl her father wrote about, but as she goes about her days it looks like some events actually did happen and there are strange things happening again so maybe she was wrong after all? The tension builds up towards the final day, July 15 with tapping, thuds, a record player that starts playing songs in the middle of the night every night and 5-year old Maggie’s imiginary (ghostly) friends with Mr. Shadow telling her that she’s going to die… can it get any scarier? I didn’t know what to make of it all but I was not disappointed when I found out why Mr. Shadow was haunting her.
On a sidenote, the strangest thing also happened while reading this novel because I read a certain scene set in the past about some kind of wild animal infestation that felt very scary and creepy (I still have goosebumps) and believe it or not but I read about a very similar scene in the newspaper on the same day. So, farfetched, I think not!
This is such a clever novel with lots of intricate plotlines and twists and it’s most certainly a four and half stars rounded up! This novel is begging to be made into a movie but when that happens I actually don’t know if I can or want to watch it, I’m not used to a novel this high on tension and watching this on screen is not good for my heart! Riley Sager is one of my favourite authors and he proves again why that is!
If you enjoy Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series then you will definitely enjoy this novel and vice versa!
I own an ecopy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.