Readers looking for all the thrills of a ghost story without any body horror should check out Home Before Dark by Riley Sager.
Thanks to her father’s book, House of Horrors, Maggie Holt attained infamy at the age of five. Did she really live in a haunted house? Did a ghost dangle her from the ceiling and choke her in her sleep? Maggie can’t remember, as she was only a child when her family fled the house, and besides, she’s pretty sure her father made it all up for financial gain.
He insists he told the truth until the day he dies, and soon after, Maggie finds out she has inherited Baneberry Hall. She decides to fix the old house up to sell and returns to the scene of the alleged haunting. She discovers a house of secrets, hostile caretakers and townspeople, and the ghosts that may or may not have been in her father’s head.
Sager sets up the book with alternating points of view: Maggie’s as she returns to Baneberry Hall, and her father’s book as it was published. Her father’s book borrows from Shirley Jackson and The Amityville Horror and is meant to be a derivative and low-brow thriller, a paperback bestseller.
The meta-story ratchets up the tension as Maggie tries to parse out what threats are supernatural, and what threats are real. Fans of Ruth Ware, Paul Tremblay, and/or haunted house stories shouldn’t miss Home Before Dark.