Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
Publication date: 09 November 2017
Genre: Adult thriller
Page count: 256 pages
Format: Digital proof
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
So to get this out of the way: yes, this book is written by the marvelous Krysten Ritter. I really like her as an actress and am a huge fan of Jessica Jones. I will be very honest, I was very curious about this book based on who she is — I’m not sure it’s one I would have picked up on my own in a bookstore. However, while I don’t read a lot of thrillers, it’s a genre I’d love to get into and this seemed like a great fit.
It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.
But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.
Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.
With tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense, and a remote, rural town of just five claustrophobic miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of the question: can you ever outrun your past?
I enjoyed Bonfire, but I really think that her star power did help get it published. This is a book that had great potential, but fell flat. If she had been a ‘regular’ person, I think that her author or agent would have taken more time to develop the story into something great. While the bones of a good thriller were there, Bonfire was just okay.
The main issue is that Bonfire couldn’t figure out what it was. Was it an environmental thriller with a kickass lawyer as a heroine? Was it another Girl on the Train that featured a twisted tale and an unreliable narrator? Or was it the story of a woman dredging up her secretive past? It had elements of all three, but it didn’t really commit to any and I think the book really suffered because of this.
Abby, our narrator, was supposed to be this big-city lawyer coming back home to shake things up, but she hardly did any lawyering. I really wanted her to be a razor-sharp legal mind, and while she you get an understanding of some of her legal prowess I just didn’t find her impressive in this sense. Her career as a lawyer served more as a plot device to get her back to her hometown than anything else. The most interesting part of the book was Abby’s return to her hometwon. She must answer the haunting question that has been haunting her since childhood — what happened to Kaycee Mitchell? I really enjoyed her digging up secrets from the past and how those secrets related to the present. I also really liked her return to the hometown that she has been trying to run from. Funny enough, her career as a lawyer just got in the way of these much more fascinating plot elements. The story probably would have worked better if her career as a lawyer had been cut.
The story itself was interesting enough, but I didn’t find it particularly intriguing. For me, there wasn’t a huge twist or surprise in the plot. It pretty much played out exactly as I expected it to, although I didn’t guess the exact details. It was all a bit underwhelming, and I found that I just didn’t care about her investigation into Optimal Plastics. I wanted to know more about Abby’s past and the way it has affected her life.
Despite all this, I see real potential in Ritter’s writing. I powered through Bonfire in only a few sittings and found it entertaining. It’s a fun and fluffy book (if a dark book can be fluffy) to pick up from the library if you’re on holiday in the summer. It has an interesting and imperfect female lead and reads very quickly — just don’t expect anything gripping and groundbreaking.
CW: bullying, slut shaming, suicide, off-screen abuse
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