Book review: Middle of the Night by Riley Sager

Sunday, June 30, 2024 Permalink

According to Goodreads and this site Middle of the Night by Riley Sager is only the second book I’ve read by the American author since 2017 when I inhaled the popular, Final Girls. Although a couple of more recent books seem familiar, perhaps I only coveted them from afar rather than getting review copies or picking them up. Like Final Girls this is centred around an old mystery, stirred up when one of the players returns to his childhood home.

Book review: Middle of the Night by Riley SagerMiddle of the Night
by Riley Sager
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
on 18/06/2024
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 139971239X
Pages: 384

On July 15, 1994, ten-year-old Ethan and his best friend Billy fell asleep together in their quiet New Jersey cul de sac.

In the morning, Ethan woke up alone. The tent was sliced open, and Billy was gone, taken. He was never seen again.

Thirty years later, Ethan has returned to Hemlock Circle, still desperate for answers.

Plagued by bad dreams and insomnia, he begins to notice strange things happening on the street under the cover of darkness. Someone is prowling the cul de sac when no one is awake to see them.

Ethan’s returned to his childhood home as this opens, because his parents have downsized and moved to Florida. Ethan’s reluctant to return to the morbidly named Hemlock Circle, the last place he saw his best friend Billy thirty years earlier, but’s a lifeline he needs as it seems his personal and professional lives have imploded.

Some of his neighbours are still around so there are vivid reminders of his past but we learn Ethan’s been tortured by nightmares for much of his life. I’m not a fan of books dipping into the fantastic or occult and this had Stranger Things vibes, with references to ghosts, parapsychology and the secretive Hawthorne Institute operating nearby in 1994.

We discover that Ethan, Billy and others in their neighbourhood trespassed on the day Billy disappeared, sneaking into the Institute grounds and the others taking off when Billy got caught, allowing him to be privy to some of the Institute’s (not-so-evil) secrets.

There are strange happenings both then and now with something seemingly lurking in the nearby woods. Ethan assumes it’s the ghost of Billy returned to share his secrets now those present in 1994 have all returned. Fans of the more surreal will appreciate the security lights being triggered by shadows and secret childhood  messages between Ethan and Billy being re-enacted.

We get a resolution here, with a few coincidences popped in for those who prefer the hazy world of ghosts and shadow people as well as some very real surprises… but it felt a little anticlimactic. In some ways I suspect Sager wanted that to be the case… that something so steeped in mystery could in fact be fairly banal.

Middle of the Night by Riley Sager was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton and is now available.

I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


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