The Quick Recap and Section-by-Section Summary for Home Before Dark by Riley Sager are below. Spoiler warning: these summaries contains spoilers.
For a non-spoiler version of the plot synopsis, see The Bibliofile's review of Home Before Dark by Riley Sager.
The novel switches back and forth from a) parts book written by Ewan Holt, and b) narration from Maggie Holt, his daughter, many years after its publication. Maggie's life has been defined by her father's worldwide bestselling book, House of Horrors. Ewan's book is a non-fictional account of the Holt family's time at Baneberry Hall, a mansion they moved into 25 years ago for 20 days before fleeing.
In the book, Ewan and his wife Jess move into Baneberry Hall with their 5-year-old daughter Maggie. The previous owners were the Carvers. The father, Curtis Carver, hung himself and then suffocated his daughter, Katie. The wife Martha found them both. Ewan later finds out that the house's original owner, William Garson, had a daughter, Indigo Garson, who was murdered as well. As he researches the house's horrific history, Ewan learns of other deaths, all involving daughters killed when their fathers were present.
At the house, Walt Hibbets is the caretaker and Elsa is their housekeeper. Elsa is a superstitious woman with two daughters. Each morning Ewan hears a mysterious "thud" at 4:45 AM and the sound of tapping. A record player often turns on as well, playing When You're Sixteen Going on Seventeen from The Sound of Music. Meanwhile, a 5-year-old Maggie claims to see ghosts -- Mister Shadow (a dark figure), a young girl and Miss Pennyface (a woman with pennies on her eyes). Ewan and Jess dismiss this as an overactive imagination and night terrors.
In present day, 30-year-old Maggie inherits the house (Ewan is recently deceased). Maggie has no recollection of the events of the book and has always considered it to be full of lies. She moves in to her old room. She plans to renovate and sell the house, but also to find out the truth. She meets Dane (Walt's grandson) and Hannah (Elsa's daughter). Walt is deceased and Elsa has Alzheimer's. Hannah's older sister Petra went missing around the time the Holts left Baneberry. Petra was 16 at the time, while Hannah was 6.
As Maggie stays there, objects go missing and she hears the same music and tapping her father heard, all of which she attributes to intruders (the house is a tourist destination because of the fame of the book). Maggie offers Dane work, helping with the renovation, and he accepts. Maggie also tries to verify the facts of the book. She finds old photographs that correspond with many scenes in the book. But other details don't match up.
In the book, Ewan described a day where the kitchen ceiling collapsed, revealing a nest of snakes in the space between the floors. He also found letters writen to Indigo Garson. She had wanted to elope with a boy, but her father had been determined to prevent it. She died mysteriously soon after. Ewan suspects it was William who killed her. In the present, Maggie and Dane are inspecting the house when the same spot breaks open and a human skeleton falls down. It's Petra's body. Petra had started sneaking out around the time the Holts moved in, and Maggie suspects her father may be implicated in Petra's death.
In his book, Ewan claims that they used a Ouija board and other means to contact the house's spirit(s). The spirit identifies itself as Curtis Carver, and he/it claims that he didn't kill Katie. Instead, the spirit directs Ewan to some old photos and a painting of Indigo Garson. The painting contains hint (a snake painted over), and in the photos Ewan sees an image of the Miss Pennyface ghost that Maggie had described. It looks exactly like Indigo. Ewan realizes that Indigo must've been angry about her father. Indigo's spirit has been punishing other fathers by killing their daughters and blaming them. The spirit attacks, but eventually Ewan, Maggie and Jess are able to flee the house.
In present day, Maggie talks to Martha Carver, who still lives in town, who denies parts of Ewan's story. Martha also mentions items from Baneberry being sold online. Maggie figures it's Hannah, who has a key to the house. Hannah admits that she's the intruder who has been stealing stuff, making noises and playing music. She needed the money and wanted Maggie to leave. Hannah also tells Maggie about the hidden back door to the house.
Maggie finds the hidden door that leads to the armoire in her room. She also notices a page in Ewan's book, describing how Walt had asked a boy from town to help patch up the ceiling after it broke. Maggie recalls how Hannah had believed Petra had a secret boyfriend. She wonders if that boy was the boyfriend and one who killed Petra and hid her body in the ceiling. Maggie looks at the old photos and realizes the teenager who came to help was Dane. When Maggie confronts Dane, he admits to teenage fling with Petra but denies killing her. After a scuffle, Dane is injured and taken away on a stretcher.
In the aftermath, Maggie's mom (who was out of the country) arrives. She tells Maggie that it wasn't Dane. She says that Maggie was the one who killed Petra. Petra was babysitting and when they came home, there were signs of a physical altercation and she had clearly been pushed down the stairs. Ewan made up most of the stuff about ghosts in the book (he wrote it to capitalize off the house's spooky history because they needed the money), though the night terrors were real. Afterwards, Maggie is alone when Martha emerges from the armoire. With the moonlight glinting off her spectacles, Maggie realizes Martha is Miss Pennyface.
When Maggie was young, Martha would sneak in to watch her sleep, because she reminded her of Katie. When Petra was babysitting, Petra walked in, saw Martha and flipped out. This resulted in Martha accidentally pushing Petra down the stairs. Now that Maggie is back, Martha knows that the truth will eventually come out, so she has poisoned Maggie and is going to kill her. Maggie gets pushed down the stairs, but survives. She sees what looks like Petra's spirit (which turns out to be Elsa) then shove Martha down the stairs. Martha dies. (Maggie doesn't know if Elsa just wandered in there or if Petra's spirit really helped propel Elsa to save her. It also turns out that Elsa was Mister Shadow. She was superstitious about the house's history and wanted to warn her family away from the house.)
In the epilogue, Maggie starts writing the sequel to her father's book.
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The novel switches back and forth from a) parts from a published book, a “true story” written by Ewan Holt, and b) narration from Maggie Holt, his daughter, many years after it’s been published.
Prologue, July 1 (From the Book)
The Holt family, Ewan and Jess, has recently moved into Baneberry Hall in Bartleby. Their daughter, 5-year-old Maggie, has a room on the second floor that connects to a playroom. Maggie thinks there are ghosts and also says that “Mister Shadow” says they’re all going to die.
Chapter 1 (Present Day)
A 30-year-old Maggie has a scar on her left cheek that has been made famous by her father’s book, which was a worldwide bestseller. The book recounts events from June 26 to July 15. Maggie thinks the book is full of lies and none of it happened. She doesn’t know why they left, but she doesn’t believe it was ghosts.
Maggie meets with Arthur Rosenfield, the lawyer handling her late father’s estate. Ewan has recently passed and has left her around $400,000. At the lawyer’s office, she learns that her father never sold Baneberry Hall, and now it’s hers. (Her parents divorced 22 years ago, and her mother wanted no part in any of it.)
May 20, The Tour (From the Book)
Janie June Jones, their realtor, is giving them a tour of the house, named after the poisonous Baneberries that once covered the land. It was built by William Garson in 1875. The Garsons lived there until the Great Depression, when it was sold to a Hollywood producer. Later, it became a bed and breakfast and has since had many owners. Now, Ewan and Jess are considering buying the house from money Jess’s grandfather left her.
There’s two cottages next to the main house, for the housekeeper and caretaker. The property is walled off by a ten-foot wall from all sides, blocking off the woods around it, with a gate at the front. The house is eccentric, but Ewan loves it. There are paintings of the Garsons painted directly onto the walls.
Before they leave, Janie admits that the house’s price is low because of the deaths of the previous owners, the Carvers, also a family of three. Curtis Carver murdered his daughter Katie and then killed himself. His wife Martha found them. The Holts agree to buy the house.
Chapter 2 (Present Day)
Maggie and her business partner Allie flip houses, and they are mid-remodel at the moment.
Maggie meets up with her mother, who is now remarried to a man named Carl. Her mother and Carl are about to leave on a month-long vacation to Capri. Maggie tells her about inheriting the house. Her mother confirms the book was a lie Ewan made up, even if Maggie did start having night terrors (visions of dark figures watching her sleep) when they moved in. Her mother also offers to buy the house, saying there’s no reason for Maggie to visit it. Before he died, Ewan also made Maggie promise never to return there. Maggie finds it odd they both don’t want her to go back.
June 25, The Closing (From the Book)
After they buy the house, Ewan promises Jess not to look into the Carver’s deaths. The Holts meet Walt Hibbets, caretaker, and Elsa Ditmer, the housekeeper. Walt hints that there’s more to the house’s history than they’ve been told.
Chapter 3 (Present Day)
Against her parents’ wishes, Maggie goes to Baneberry Hall. She thinks she can renovate and sell it. Looking around, she notices the paintings are gone. She also meets Dane Hibbets, Walt’s handsome grandson. He tells her that Elsa has Alzheimer’s. Now, her daughter cleans the house. Ewan was paying both of them up until he died, and he visited each year on July 15. Dane offers his general contracting and home repair services to help with the house renovation, and Maggie accepts. Inside, Maggie finds Elsa, who mistakes her for Petra.
June 26, Day 1 (From the Book)
Ewan meets Elsa, who lives with her two daughters, Petra (16) and Hannah (6). Despite his promise to Jess, Ewan asks about the Carvers. Elsa tells him that Curtis had claimed Katie was sick and didn’t let her leave her room.
Chapter 4 (Present Day)
The Police Chief Tess Alcott shows up with Hannah, looking for Elsa. Hannah explains that Petra ran away 25 years ago and hasn’t been seen since. After they leave, Maggie notices that a letter opener engraved with William Garson’s initials is missing.
June 27, Day 2 (From the Book)
Ewan thinks he hears noises through the night and a loud thud at 4:45 AM. There’s also a chandelier that keeps going on by itself, which he assumes is a wiring issue.
During the day, Maggie meets Petra and Hannah, and the girls go off to play. There’s a line of bells connected to the rooms from the house’s bed and breakfast days. As they play, the bell for Maggie’s room starts ringing urgently. Maggie claims she saw someone disappear into her armoire. Later that night, Ewan finds the armoire doors inexplicably open.
Chapter 5 (Present Day)
In the house, Maggie reclaims her old room. She finds the doors to the old armoire boarded up, so she removes the boards. She finds a bunch of girls’ dresses inside. Elsewhere, there are some of her old jeans and shirts. Maggie recalls what her parents had said in interviews about them fleeing without their possessions.
June 28, Day 3 (From the Book)
In the study where Curtis hanged himself, Ewan finds a box with a camera and a series of photographs. The photos are each of Curtis, dated daily from July 3 – 11. In the photos, Curtis looks thinner and more haggard each day. Ewan also takes some photos of Maggie, but there’s a dark figure in the background. Finally, Maggie slips and scratches her face (it’s how she gets her scar), and Ewan sees that the object she injured herself on is William Garson’s gravestone.
Chapter 6 (Present Day)
Maggie sees someone outside, but Officer Alcott had warned her that tourists came by the house sometimes. The next day, she and Dane explore. In the study, Maggie finds the box with the photos. There are photos of her, too, and various people and scenes she can recall from her father’s book, including the photos taken the day she got her scar. Maggie is confused since it seems from the photos that she didn’t get her scar on day 3, but then how did she get the scar?
Maggie then checks the gravestone she hit her head on, and she sees it’s actually for a dog, Rover. She admits to Dane she’s here partially to find out what really happened.
June 29, Day 4 (From the Book)
In the woods, Ewan locates more graves from the Garson family, including that of Indigo Garson, William’s beautiful daughter. The rumor was that she and man who painted her portrait had fallen in love, but William kept them apart. Desolate, she killed herself at 16 by eating baneberries. That night, Ewan finds the record player in the study inexplicably on and playing When You’re Sixteen Going on Seventeen from The Sound of Music.
Chapter 7 (Present Day)
In town, Maggie runs into Martha Carver, who is working in the local bakery. Maggie feel awkward, knowing her father exploited the Carver family’s tragedy. When she returns, she finds Brian Prince at the house. Brian is the reporter who wrote an article about the Holts 25 years ago, resulting in her father’s book deal. Brian wants to interview her, but Maggie blames him for helping to spread her father’s lies.
Brian brings up that Petra hasn’t been seen since the night they fled Baneberry Hall. Ewan had brought up the young and beautiful Petra quite a few times in his book. Annoyed, Maggie kicks Brian off the property. She goes inside to find the chandelier (inexplicably) on.
June 30, Day 5 (From the Book)
At 4:45 AM again, Ewan hears another thud. The next day, he finds Maggie talking to an imaginary friend, who she says sleeps in her armoire. Concerned, Ewan and Jess decide to invite Hannah and Petra over for a sleepover.
Chapter 8 (Present Day)
As Maggie wonders about her father’s relationship with Petra, Maggie hears the Sound of Music playing seemingly by itself. She goes upstairs to see that a teddy bear she and Dane had found is missing.
July 1, Day 6 (From the Book)
Maggie says the ghosts have told her they’re all going to die. She says there are three of them. The girl with no name, Mister Shadow and Miss Pennyface, a woman with pennies over her eyes. Suddenly, they hear a series of taps and the music comes on again.
Ewan calls the police about an intruder, and a very young Officer Tess Alcott shows up. However, since nothing was taken there’s not much for her to do. Ewan sets up some stuff like thread, chalk and cards at the house entrances so they can see where the intruder is coming in from.
Chapter 9 (Present Day)
In present day, Maggie suspects an intruder as well so she tears out pages from her father’s book and puts one in the front door and every window, to track where an intruder could be coming in from.
July 2, Day 7 (From the Book)
At 4:45, Ewan hears yet another thud. He goes to check things out and finds a baby snake in his coffee, followed by a hole in the ceiling that breaks open with more snakes. Jess and Maggie come down to check the commotion and see the scene as well, and they all flee in horror.
Chapter 10 (Present Day)
The next day, Maggie tells Dane about the strange occurrences and the missing teddy bear. As Dane looks around, he notices the weakness in the ceiling. As he pushes on the weak plaster, it breaks. Maggie is expecting snakes, but instead a burlap sack falls down. Inside, is a human skeleton.
July 3, Day 8 (From the Book)
After the kitchen ceiling cave-in, the family stays at the local motel, the Two Pines Motor Lodge, for a night. The next day, they return to Baneberry, but the kitchen is still a mess.
Chapter 11 (Present Day)
Dane and Maggie are questioned by the police about the skeleton. Chief Alcott tells Maggie to find somewhere else to stay for the night. Hannah shows up asking to look at the remains. When she sees a golden crucifix, the one Petra used to wear, she’s sure it’s her sister.
July 4, Day 9 (From the Book)
Hibbs comes over and they determine that there’s a empty space in between the kitchen ceiling and room above (the Indigo Room, the room with the painting of Indigo Garson) which is where the snakes had been. They also find a tin hidden there, with love letters written to Indigo. Petra asks to look at them. That night, Ewan hears the taps and the music plays yet again, despite having up the record player in the closet.
Chapter 12 (Present Day)
Maggie goes to stay at Two Pines. Allie calls to check up, but Maggie just texts her back. Instead, Maggie calls her mom, leaving a message about wanting to talk. Dane comes by to check on her. Maggie says she’s not sure she wants to do the renovation anymore, though she still has more questions she wants answered. Dane offers to stay (with some innuendo), but Maggie declines.
July 5, Day 10 (From the Book)
Ewan wakes to the same thud in the morning and is in a bad mood. Ewan ends up in a fight with Jess, who mentions how she doesn’t like the way he looks at Petra. Petra then shows up with Indigo’s letters. They’re love letters written by someone named Callum Auguste to Indigo. They had a plan to elope, and Callum warned her that William would do anything to stop it. Petra suspects that William killed his daughter.
Chapter 13 (Present Day)
The next morning, news crews line the street, asking questions about whether her father killed Petra Ditmer. Chief Alcott talks to Maggie and brings up that Dane is an ex-con, which Maggie didn’t know. He spent a year in prison for aggravated assault.
Back in the house, Maggie searches for clues about what happened to Petra. She finds a series of notes, one for each year, written by Hannah demanding to know what happened to Petra and where she is.
July 6, Day 11 (From the Book)
Ewan visits the Bartleby Library (funded originally by William Garson) to do research and finds Petra there. He finds news articles detailing the gory history of Baneberry, starting with Indigo’s death to a bathtub drowning to the mysterious deaths of two bed and breakfast guests, etc. There’s also a car accident involving the Garson family. They also find out that a maid had claimed to see Mr. Garson put baneberries into a bowl the night of Indigo’s death, but he was never charged. As he goes to photocopy an article about the Carvers, Ewan runs into Martha Carver.
Chapter 14 (Present Day)
Maggie finds Hannah, who confirms the notes were from her. Hannah tells her that Petra started sneaking out around the time the Holts moved in. Despite being 16, she would bring her teddy bear, Buster, with her. Hannah thinks Petra had a secret boyfriend. Hannah also says that she saw Ewan at the house two weeks after the Holts had left. Maggie wonders if Petra’s “secret boyfriend” actually had to do with an illicit relationship with her father.
Finally, Hannah says that what Ewan wrote about their sleepover was all true.
July 7, Day 12 (From the Book)
The day starts again with a thud. The day of the sleepover, Maggie warns that the ghosts don’t want the extra guests here. That night, as they are sleeping, Hannah feels something or someone pull her hair, followed by things flying out of the wardrobe. When Ewan hears a sound under Maggie’s bed, he goes to check on it. Maggie suddenly seems possessed and punches Hannah.
Chapter 15 (Present Day)
Back at the house, Maggie looks through the old photos, but then the music starts playing again. She goes upstairs to find the study empty, except for Buster the Teddy Bear sitting on the desk. Maggie called the police, but Chief Alcott can find no signs of a break-in. When Maggie suggests something is wrong with the house, Alcott accuses Maggie of trying to write a sequel to the book. Angry, Maggie takes a sledgehammer to the record player.
July 8, Day 13 (From the Book)
Jess and Ewan take Maggie to see Dr. Lila Weber, a child psychologist. Weber attributes her behavior to a hyperactive imagination, and that they should address the house’s history with her directly. After, Jess and Ewan talk to Maggie, and predictably Maggie admits that Hannah has told her about the murders. They reassure her that nothing bad will happen while they’re there. When they show her the article about it, Maggie sees a photos of Curtis and recognizes him as Mister Shadow.
Chapter 16 (Present Day)
Maggie has been avoiding Dane, but with her house surrounded by news crews, she needs his help to get out inconspicuously. She asks him to pick her up just outside the woods, and he agrees. When Maggie chides him for not telling her about his criminal past, Dane decides he’s no longer interested in working for her on the house renovation. The two split ways.
Maggie goes to find Lila Weber, who confirms their appointment and the story from her father’s book. Lila sees her father’s book as an attempt by a father to understand his daughter, but Lila also confirms that young Maggie definitely believed those ghosts were real.
July 9, Day 14 (From the Book)
That night, the Jess and Ewan use an Ouija board to try to contact the spirits Maggie believes she sees. They each accuse the other of moving the cursor. The spirit confirms that it is Curtis and repeats the message “CAFEFUL” three times.
Chapter 17 (Present Day)
Maggie tries to find the library, only to learn it burned down years ago. Reluctantly, she turns to Brian Prince for help, asking to see his newspaper’s archives. In exchange, she offers an exclusive interview, which he readily accepts. As she goes through the archives, Maggie is surprised to see that Brian Prince was also the first one to cover the Carver murder-suicide.
July 10, Day 15 (From the Book)
Once again, Ewan awakes to the taps, the thub and music. The bells attached to the rooms start ringing. Ewan believes it is a message and assigns letters to the 20-ish bells. Ewan asks questions out loud and the bells indicate it is Curtis Carver, but also that he didn’t kill his daughter.
Chapter 18 (Present Day)
Next, Maggie goes to find Martha Carver at the bakery. She’s surprised that Martha readily agrees to talk about the book, and she offers to meet her at the house to discuss.
July 11, Day 16 (From the Book)
Ewan goes to visit Martha Carver at the bakery. She’s initially reluctant to talk, but when Ewan mentions the troubles Maggie is having, she agrees and they meet at the library. Martha describes how Curtis had heard tapping. She’d been awoken by the “thud” as his body fell exactly at 4:45 AM. She’d found him dead in the study and Katie’s smothered body in her room as well. When Ewan suggests that someone else may have killed them, Martha gets angry and leaves.
Chapter 19 (Present Day)
Martha confirms the story that Ewan provided in the book, but she says that the part about him suggesting that Curtis was innocent never happened. Martha confides that Curtis left a note admitting to it, but it was kept secret. Martha also brings to Maggie’s attention that there are items from the house being sold on online auction sites.
Martha gives Maggie a pie.
July 12, Day 17 (From the Book)
Ewan asks Petra to babysit for Maggie while he does some research, but Elsa says that she’s grounded. Instead, Elsa comes over to watch Maggie.
Ewan looks over the articles about the house’s history. In 1926, William Garson’s granddaughter was hit and killed by a car in accident where her father was the driver. In 1941, the 4-year-old daughter of the Hollywood producer was drowned in a bathtub when the producer blacked out while bathing her. The three bed and breakfast deaths were all girls was well, 15, 13 and 4, and all staying with or witnessed by their fathers. As the music turns itself on, it replays the part in the song where it says to be “careful”.
Chapter 20 (Present Day)
Maggie suspects Hannah is the one taking the stuff from the house, and she confronts her. Hannah offers no apology, instead she says that her mother was sick so she needed the money. Hannah admits that she had been ringing bells and playing the music to try to get her to leave. That’s also why she said that the sleepover stuff was true. However, Hannah denies having anything to do with Buster. She says she hasn’t seen the bear in 25 years.
Maggie demands the keys, but tells Hannah she can have anything in the mansion to sell. Finally, Hannah admits that there’s a hidden back door to the house.
July 13, Day 18 (From the Book)
Jess wakes Ewan, screaming about Maggie having been choked in her sleep, with red marks around her neck. Jess thinks Ewan did it, even after he tells her about the house’s history. Jess takes Maggie and leaves.
Chapter 21 (Present Day)
Maggie finds the hidden back door, which leads up to the armoire in her room. She understands then why it was boarded up to begin with. Maggie realizes then that it wasn’t ghosts in her room, but real people.
July 14, Day 19 (From the Book)
After awaking to the usual thud and music, Ewan waits for the bells to chime. When they do, “Curtis” communicates to him to go look at Indigo’s portrait. In it, she is holding a rabbit, but on further inspection he sees that it was painted over. He chips away the paint to find a snake underneath.
Chapter 22 (Present Day)
Maggie asks Dane for assistance in boarding up both the back entrance and disassembling and boarding up the armoire area. She plans to board things up, go home to Boston and then sell the house as-is. Maggie goes to the study to find the book opened up to the page describing how Ewan had asked Hibbs for help in patching up the ceiling. Hibbs had brought a boy from town to help. Maggie wonders if that person was Petra’s “secret boyfriend” who killed her when she had secret thoughts about running away with him.
Maggie checks the old photographs for hints. She gets a magnifying glass and just as she recognizes the boy as a teen-aged Dane, he shows up.
July 15, Day 20–Before Dark (From the Book)
Ewan wakes up, having been knocked unconscious on the floor. He realizes that the snake was indicating Indigo’s true nature, that she was a predator. He draws the conclusion that Indigo is the evil spirit making girls kill themselves in the house and placing the blame on their fathers, possibly out of anger that her father had kept her away from Callum or possibly because her father killed her.
The bells ring out another message, to check to camera. Ewan checks the old photos and sees that in the last photo, July 15, of Curtis an image of Miss Pennyface is in the far corner. Miss Pennyface is Indigo Garson. Ewan takes photos of himself and sees that she’s visible in them as well, but he feels safe knowing that he’s not her intended target. But then Maggie and Jess return.
Chapter 23 (Present Day)
Maggie confronts Dane with her findings. He admits that he and Petra had a summer fling, but denies that he killed Petra. When Dane moves towards her, Maggie shoves him, hard, and runs into the Indigo Room. Maggie skips the gap, but Dane forgets about it and falls down into the lower floor.
July 15, Day 20–After Dark (From the Book)
Ewan shows Jess the photos of himself with Miss Pennyface/Indigo in the background. Jess is horrified. They want to pack up and leave, but before they can, Maggie gets thrown up to the ceiling. Ewan threatens to kill himself, which would ruin Indigo’s plan. Indigo drops Maggie, but the room fills with snakes. The family runs out, leaving all their possessions.
Chapter 24 (Present Day)
After Dane’s fall, Maggie calls 911 and fills Alcott in on what she found out. Dane is taken out on a stretcher, to be questioned later. Maggie’s mother shows up, demanding to know what’s going on. Maggie tells her mother what happened. They go into the kitchen and Maggie eats some pie on the counter. Finally, her mother tells her the truth: It wasn’t Dane. Maggie was the one who killed Petra.
Ewan wanted a house with an interesting history so he could write a non-fictional account of them fixing it up. They had loved the home. Parts of the book were true and parts were false. Many parts about Indigo were true (about the letters, her death, etc.), but others less so. There never were any portraits of Indigo or William. Maggie had imaginary friends, but no ghosts.
The night of the murder, Ewan and Jess wanted a night away. Petra had gone to babysit Maggie without her mother’s knowledge. When Ewan and Jess returned to Baneberry, they found Petra dead on the floor, with a torn shirt and scratch marks, having been pushed from the stairs. Maggie kept insisted it was Miss Pennyface, but after the violence with Hannah (and because Miss Pennyface doesn’t exist), they knew it must’ve been Maggie. Maggie also had a cut under her left eye, indicating some type of altercation. They covered it up and disposed of the body in the hole in order to protect Maggie. Afterwards, Jess knew she couldn’t live there anymore, so they left.
Ewan knew enough about the house’s history for it to be believable that they’d been spooked into leaving. He hadn’t expected the media attention that followed. Jess had been against writing the book, but they needed the money and the book offer had been quite lucrative. He came back each year out of guilt.
Chapter 25 (Present Day)
Maggie demands to know what’s going on and eats pie as she chats with her mom. After finding out the truth, Maggie lashes out at her mother for keeping all this from her. Her mother leaves, and Maggie throws herself onto her bed and cries. Then, a figure emerges from the armoire. It’s Miss Pennyface, except there were never pennies on her eyes. It was the moonlight glinting off her spectacles. Miss Pennyface is Martha Carver.
Chapter 26 (Present Day)
Martha tells her she had visited the house to watch Maggie sleep, to think about Katie. The memories come flooding back, and Maggie remembers that night finally. Petra had walked in on Martha in Maggie’s room and flipped out. There was a scuffle, resulting in Petra falling down the stairs.
Maggie is sweating and feels weak. Martha tells her the pie she ate earlier had baneberries mixed in. Martha says that she realized when Maggie returned that it was just a matter of time before the truth came out (about Martha killing Petra). However, it was indeed Curtis who killed Katie and not Martha. Martha tries to suffocate Maggie, but Maggie manages to knock her off. Maggie tries to leave, but at the top of the stairs, Martha trips her, sending her falling down.
In her injured and poisoned state, Maggie sees a glow of light. She thinks it looks like Petra. She then watches as Martha tumbles down, cracking her neck and dying. As her vision clears, Maggie sees it’s not Petra at all, but Elsa and she looks lucid and as alert and aware as ever.
It’s now October. Maggie is planning on listing the house soon. The news has widely covered the truth about what happened at Baneberry Hall, but some still believe it’s haunted.
Maggie finds out that Elsa was the one she had thought was Mister Shadow as a child. Elsa had visited her and was superstitious about the house’s history. She had warned Maggie that they were going to die there. Elsa has now been moved to a care facility. Dane listened to Maggie’s explanation of her actions, but had nothing else to say to her. He moved out.
Meanwhile, Maggie’s mother is being sentenced for her part in the Petra cover-up next week. (After Maggie kicked her out, Maggie’s mother was determined to prevent Maggie from confessing to the murder. Instead, Jess confessed to it. As a result, Chief Alcott went to the house and found Maggie half-dead at the bottom of the stairs and they saved her.) Maggie wonders if Petra’s spirit really was involved in getting Elsa to push Martha down the stairs.
Having been offered a sizable advance, Maggie sits down in the Baneberry Hall study to write the sequel to her father’s book and tell the full story.