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Middle of the Night by Riley Sager


Middle of the Night

by Riley Sager

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Quick take

A reluctant return to his hometown forces a troubled man to grapple with his childhood friend’s mysterious abduction.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Multiple_Viewpoints

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Supernatural


  • Illustrated icon, Nonlinear_Timeline

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Unreliable_Narrator

    Unreliable narrator


The worst thing to ever happen on Hemlock Circle occurred in Ethan Marsh’s backyard. One July night, ten-year-old Ethan and his best friend and neighbor, Billy, fell asleep in a tent set up on a manicured lawn in a quiet, quaint New Jersey cul-de-sac. In the morning, Ethan woke up alone. During the night, someone had sliced the tent open with a knife and taken Billy. He was never seen again.

Thirty years later, Ethan has reluctantly returned to his childhood home. Plagued by bad dreams and insomnia, he begins to notice strange things happening in the middle of the night. Someone seems to be roaming the cul-de-sac at odd hours, and signs of Billy’s presence keep appearing in Ethan’s backyard. Is someone playing a cruel prank? Or has Billy, long thought to be dead, somehow returned to Hemlock Circle?

The mysterious occurrences prompt Ethan to investigate what really happened that night, a quest that reunites him with former friends and neighbors and leads him into the woods that surround Hemlock Circle. Woods where Billy claimed ghosts roamed and where a mysterious institute does clandestine research on a crumbling estate.

The closer Ethan gets to the truth, the more he realizes that no place—be it quiet forest or suburban street—is completely safe. And that the past has a way of haunting the present.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Middle of the Night.

Middle of the Night

Saturday, July 16, 1994

6:37 a.m.

Morning sunlight seeps into the tent like a water leak, dripping onto the boy in a muted glow. The trickle of light on his cheeks wakes him from a deep slumber. He opens his eyes, just a little, his vision hazy through a web of lashes still sticky with sleep. Peering up at light tinted orange by the tent’s fabric, he tries to pinpoint the position of the sun, wondering what time it is and if his mother is already awake, sipping coffee in the kitchen, waiting for them to come in for breakfast.

It’s stuffy inside the tent. The July heat never abated during the night and now fills the air, thick and heavy. He’d wanted to keep the tent flap open while they slept, but his father said mosquitoes could get in. So the flap remains zipped shut, trapping the heat, which mingles with the distinct smells of boys in summertime. Grass and sweat, bug spray and sunblock, morning breath and body odor.

He wrinkles his nose at the smell and feels a pop of sweat on his brow as he rolls over in his sleeping bag. It feels safe. Like a hug.

Although awake, he doesn’t want to get up just yet. He prefers to stay exactly where he is, as he is. A boy on a lazy Saturday morning, smack-​­dab in the middle of a lazy summer.

His name is Ethan Marsh.

He is ten.

And this is the last carefree moment he’ll have for the next thirty years.

Because just as he’s about to close his eyes again, he notices another bit of light. A bright vertical slit glowing on the side of the tent.


Strange enough to make him sit up, eyes now fully open, taking in the single slash in the fabric that runs from the top of the tent all the way to the ground. It’s slightly puckered, like skin that’s just been sliced. Through the gap, he sees a sliver of familiar yard. Freshly cut grass. Light blue sky. The glare of sun that’s only just now clearing the distant trees.

Seeing it, Ethan is hit by a realization he’s vaguely known since waking but is only now beginning to understand.

He is in a tent.

In his own backyard.

Completely alone.

But when he went to sleep the night before, there had been someone else with him.

Someone now gone.

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Why I love it

The night I read Middle of the Night, I forgot to make dinner. I was on the train home and became so wrapped up in the book that when I made it home, I immediately sat down, ignored my hunger, and kept reading on because I needed to know what would happen next. This book is just that good.

Thirty years after Ethan Marsh’s childhood best friend, Billy, disappeared while camping in Ethan’s backyard, Ethan is still left with questions about what happened that night. He was sound asleep right next to Billy when he disappeared. Years later, after Ethan reluctantly returns to his childhood home, he notices strange occurrences around his neighborhood that are inexplicably connected back to Billy. Is someone playing a joke? Or is Billy trying to communicate something important to his friend after all this time? As peculiar things continue to happen around the neighborhood, Ethan initiates his own investigation to finally get the answers that have been haunting him for thirty years.

Riley Sager seamlessly weaves the past and present together to create a truly propulsive read with a cast of characters that all have their own dark secrets. You won’t know who to trust as you try to piece together the truth about what really happened to Billy!

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