Friday, July 30, 2021

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager



Reviewed by Ambrea

Twenty-five years ago, Maggie Holt and her parents moved into an old Victorian estate called Baneberry Hall.  Less than three weeks later, they fled from their home in the dead of night and left everything behind.  Her father later penned a nonfiction book called The House of Horrors, chronicling their ordeal—and the hauntings that sent them running for their lives.

As an adult, Maggie has no time for her father’s lies and she’s not interested in rehashing her time at Baneberry Hall.  Not that she can remember any of it.  Instead, Maggie spends her days restoring old homes and flipping houses and avoiding her father’s book as much as she can—until, one day, after her father’s death, Maggie discovers she’s been left the keys to Baneberry Hall.

Now, she has the chance to return to her old home and figure out the truth behind the so-called “House of Horrors.”  When Maggie returns to Baneberry Hall, she soon discovers that her father’s book may have been more fact than fiction.

I don’t often read paranormal suspense.  Although I’ll dabble in lots of different genres, I’ve found I’m more drawn to rom-coms and fantasy novels, rather than thrillers and ghost stories.  However, I was intrigued by the premise of Riley Sager’s novel.  It promised to be interesting with the dueling narratives of father and daughter; likewise, it promised to be different—or, more accurately, it promised to be something entirely unexpected.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

Home Before Dark completely upended my expectations.  I found the story didn’t follow the path I imagined—and I think that’s actually a good thing.  One part ghost story, one part mystery, and one part family drama, Sager’s novel weaves together the stories of Maggie, her dad, and Baneberry Hall to create a twisty story full of tragedy, ghosts, secrets, and lies.  More than once, I found myself completely and utterly lost in the story, wondering what would happen next…and who was actually telling the truth about Baneberry Hall. 

Admittedly, I was a little apprehensive about beginning Home Before Dark.  It took me three separate checkouts to finally settle down and start listening to the book.  Ghost stories tend to turn me into a gibbering mess, so I was a little reluctant to dive into something that promised to frighten me—I mean, what if it was too scary?

Much to my relief, Home Before Dark is more suspenseful than scary.  Don’t get me wrong, I had a few moments where I had to pause the audiobook and take a breath or double check all the locks in my house.  (I am not a big fan of Mr. Shadow, okay?)  Sager builds a slow, ominous feeling of suspense—a creeping kind of fear that craws up your neck and makes your skin prickle, a tense kind of anticipation that leaves you hanging on every single word—but he never makes it outright terrifying. 

I loved the plot, but I also appreciated the skill and talent of the narrators, Cady McClain and Jon Lindstrom.  They do an excellent job of narrating both Maggie’s and her father’s stories, and they really bring Sager’s novel to life. 

Overall, Home Before Dark is a fantastic audiobook with a talented pair of narrators, a solid if tangled plot, and an eerie atmosphere that’s perfect for fans of both ghost stories and psychological thrillers.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Found Reviews

Note: There is no Nevermore Book Club report available this week, so instead we offer you some "Found Reviews."
While re-shelving books, we sometimes come across comments left by patrons about a book.  Most date back to a time when each book had a sheet attached inside the cover just for that purpose, but occasionally there is a rogue comment.  Here are some we've found recently: 

Robin Cook’s Toxin, about an outbreak of E. Coli: “No more beef for me!”   Second comment “Me either!”

Time for Me to Come Home by Dorothy Shackleford:  “EXCELLENT (in a strange sort of way)”

Large print Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas had rave reviews:  “Very good!”, “Love it! (heart)”, “Very Good!” (in different handwriting) and “(checkmark) good.”

“Hot STEAMY romance (heart) Loved it” was the comment on Never Lie to a Lady by Liz Carlyle

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah:  “Such a nightmare of a book.  Really dismal and cruel.” On a blue post-it note underneath was a rebuttal:  “Ignore this person’s comment & form your own opinion.  This person not only is defacing this library book but presuming their opinion is more valid than yours or mine.  The library should fine this person.”

Kiss the Girls by James Patterson drew a number of comments:
 “A. Super.”
 “Good story.  ‘X’ rated.”
 “V. good.”
“Sick.  Weird.”
 And then this succinct comment:  “No.”

One post-it note review for Sometimes I Lie  by Alice Feeney did cause some outrage.  It begins, “I enjoyed this book—but I think you need to know before you read—“ and then proceeds to spoil the intricate plot. “I thought about the author and how carefully she had crafted the book to surprise the reader and this person just ruined it!” said the finder. Needless to say, that review was removed immediately.

Larry McMurtry drew some comments in Some Can Whistle: 
“Peculiar! Risque!” 
“Mostly nonsense.”
“Larry McMurtry is usually Great.  This book is Stupid!”

The White Plague by Frank Herbert concerns a man who creates a plague in revenge for the death of his wife at the hands of IRA terrorists. This 1982 novel drew a number of comments:
“Interesting concept—frightening, even.  Written in a too-technical manner—vague, rather disjointed.”
“Dull—no character with whom to identify—had to force myself to finish.”
“The person who read this book before me wouldn’t know a good book if it kick it in the head—it was a good book. PERIOD.”
“Terrific—not dull at all.  However, it’s frightening also.”
“It is amazing how prescient this book is/was. It still holds up 32 years after it was written. 07/06/14”

While briefer, No Greater Love by Julie Ellis also drew dueling reviews:
“Very good!”
And underneath: “Are you kidding?!”

Clive Cussler’s Ghost Ship had two comments: “V. good. A+.”  To which someone responded, “No.  AA++.”

A 1981 novel, Home Ground by Cecelia Holland, received several reviews.  The novel takes place in California in the 1970s where a disparate group has come together to grow marijuana.
“Could not finish reading about people whose lives seem so sub-human.  Not (illegible) character that makes any sense.”
“Nothing—absolutely no plot—nothing except growing pot.  I wonder how this book ever got published.  It certainly takes no brains, no imagination--  Hopefully the author will go to school a bit longer before attempting to write.  A fourth grader could have done better.”
“A very dumb book.  My opinion of it is far worse than the above patron who read it.” 

And finally, our Andrea Camilleri fan noted in Voice of the Violin:  An Inspector Montalbano Mystery that "Camilleri calls to life the great violinists: Paganini, Ole Bull, etc..... as well as Argentine novelist Marco Deveni, all worth getting."

Monday, July 26, 2021

Moonlight & Misadventures



Welcome back to Kevin Tipple! For more reviews and news of interest to mystery fans and authors, check out Kevin's Corner, the award winning review blog. Kevin is also an author, and his latest short story The Damned Rodents Are Everywhere appears in the May 2021 issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine.


Moonlight & Misadventure: 20 Stories of Mystery and Suspense opens with a powerful tale by Joseph S. Walker titled “Crown Jewel.” Keenan Beech has brother issues. Specifically, twin brother issues. Xavier has now taken something that rightfully belonged only to Keenan. Xavier knew how to stick the knife in--figuratively-- and Keenan intends to restore balance by getting back what is his. At least, that was plan before everything got so very complicated.


Twins and their relationship are also a major part of the following story, “The Ballard of The Jerrell Twins” by Clark Boyd. Whether Darrell and Terrell really are or are not twins is not the question. The real question here is the accepted idea that two heads are better than one. In this case, they may not be as neither one is all that smart. That is apparent before the mystery, the nitrous oxide, and many other things come to light.


Tammy Lee Swanley sets up to watch Lombard’s Jewelry as “Tammy Loves Derek” by Bethany Maines begins. She has history with Derek Lombard. The same Derek Lombard coming out of the jewelry store as he is locking up for the night. She has a plan. In fact, she has a five-step plan to gain wealth. That plan is now in motion.


Lorretta Bremer with two little ones and an important job to do she has her hands full in 1921 as she rides a train from Camden to Atlantic City. You do what you do when you are a widow and on your own. Things are hard. Finding a body in her hotel room makes things so much worse. The fact that the body is of Roger MacNair who had hired her for dictation and typing at the convention is going to be a huge problem in “Moonset” by Jeanne Dubois.


After reading “Reunions” by John M. Floyd, you may think again about striking up a conversation on a plane. Larry Taylor did just that, helped out Roger Farnsworth by paying for his drink, and things went into motion.


Uncle Kenny has a plan, but Josh O’ Leary does not want to hear it. Uncle Kenny’s plans are never fool proof-- even when he claims they are-- and often result in long prison sentences. Uncle Kenny is sure his plan will absolutely work this time because they will keep it in the family in “A Currency of Wishes” by Kate Fellowes.


Gwen, as a child, started lifting items here and there. The barbie doll was the first treasure in “Cereus Thinking” by Tracy Falenwolfe. She lived with her grandparents, Don and June, who never leave the campground they run. Manatee Playground Campsite is her home and she lifts treasures from those folks who tick her off as they come through while on vacation. By the time she is of legal age, she has long since realized she needs to get out of there. Leroy Lafontaine might be her ticket out.


Readers go back in time to the early 1930s in the next tale, “Just Like Peg Entwistle” by Robert Weibezahl. In the time of the big studios and controlled access to movie stars, the sudden death of Peg Entwistle was huge news. Was it a suicide? Was the death of the young actress murder? What really happened is the subject of this tale.


The trio is out in the swamp hunting for a lost treasure in “Scavenger Hunt” by Michael A. Clark. It was lost in February 1958. All these decades later, the three are deep in the Wassaw Sound with the faint city light glow of Savannah far to their south. Lit by moonlight, the search is on.


It is back in time again with the next short story, “My Night with the Duke of Edinburgh” by Susan Daly. It is the fall of 1951 and Princess Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Phillip, will soon arrive in Canada for a royal tour. The group of college students in Toronto want to make some sort of symbolic public statement regarding Canada’s sovereignty as a nation. Exactly what kind of statement and the repercussions of their act are the theme of this tale.


She had a pretty good idea of who her big brother was, warts and all, and now Oliver is “Dead on the Beach” by KM Rockwood. At least, she thought she knew everything. But, what she is being told regarding his death does not make a lot of sense. She starts asking questions. As any reader should know, not only do snitches get stiches, asking questions can get you killed.


Mom is dead and now Uncle Peter wants his share of what the daughters have coming to them. Not that there is a lot in “Madeline in the Moonlight” by Susan Jane Wright. Mom was an artist and a bit eccentric so pretty much what you see is what you get. Peter, being Mom’s baby brother, has no claim but he certainly is pushing things.


Murder is hard and messy work. Especially when you use a sledgehammer. It was well worth it in “Not a Cruel Man” by Buzz Dixon. Cleanup should be easy.


Angie Kritt is more than ready to shut down the old tavern for the night. It has been a long day and she is very much ready to go in “12 miles to Taylorsville” by C.W. Blackwell. Once she gets rid of the last few guys from the logging crew, she can do a couple of things and get home. That is until Meena shows up terrified and on the run.


Old Man Harper is some sort of creepy perv who likes teen girls. At least, that is what everybody at school says. Everybody knows what he is and want him gone. Katy, Ron, and Grace-Rose have decided to give him a push on to somewhere else in “Chicken Coops and Bread Pudding” by K.L. Abrahamson.


Peter Hayes puts in a lot of unpaid hours. In “The Promotion” by Billy Houston, that hard work is finally going to pay off. One way or another.


Just before the power went out, the police got an alert from the security system at the library. Officers Grabowski and Tyler are dispatched in “The Library Clue” by Sharon Hart Addy. A broken basement window means they have to check it out.


The plan is the thing in “Ill Met By Moonlight, Proud Miss Dolmas” by Elizabeth Elwood. Teaching Drama and English is hard enough due to the actions of some students who think they are entitled. Some want to ignore the rules. They seem to have found an ally in the new principal, Martha Dolmas, who has never taught a class in a day of her life.


Being a public health inspector is a hard job. Having an overbearing and incompetent boss, as was present in the preceding story, just makes things worse.  In “The Moon God of Broadmoor” by M. H. Callway, Liz gets reminded that her job means she has to shovel some stuff. Figuratively and literally.


The last tale is “Strawberry Moon” by Editor Judy Penz Sheluk. All she wants to do is cross the border into the US. Unfortunately, she is dealing with a United States border guard that likes his power a little too much.

From the complicated and powerful opening tale to the twist ending in the last one, the twenty stories in the book are all good ones. Moonlight as well as misadventure in a variety of ways plays a major role in all of them. So does more than a hint of madness in many of the tales. In some cases, things happened as they always would because of the nature of the folks involved. In others, the plan failed sometimes in surprising ways.


Moonlight & Misadventure: 20 Stories of Mystery and Suspense is an anthology that features many complicated reads. Every tale selected is a good one and well worth your time.


Moonlight & Misadventure: 20 Stories of Mystery and Suspense

Editor Judy Penz Sheluk

Superior Shores Press

June 18, 2021

ASIN: B094DT4366


299 Pages


Editor Judy Penz Sheluk sent me a digital ARC of the book with no expectation or promise of a review.


Kevin R. Tipple ©2021