Title: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
Publisher: Crown Archetype
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program
Can you ever outrun your past?
From actress, producer, and writer Krysten Ritter, a gripping, tightly wound suspense novel about a woman forced to confront her past in the wake of small-town corruption
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’s 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 she tries desperately to find out what really happened to Kaycee, troubling memories begin to resurface and she begins to doubt her own observations. And when she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game”—it will threaten reputations, and lives, in 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 square miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of what happens when your past and present collide.
Bonfire by Krysten Ritter is a superb debut mystery about an investigation into whether or not a rural town’s beloved savior, Optimal Plastics, is poisoning the towns’ residents.
Ten years ago, Abby Williams could not leave Barrens, Indiana fast enough. Ten years later, she is returning to help investigate claims that the town’s largest employer and benefactor is responsible for polluting the water supply. She must also face many of her demons: memories of the horrible bullying she endured throughout high school, her former best friend turned nemesis Kaycee Mitchell’s disappearance and her relationship with her estranged father. While not much has changed in her absence, there are a few surprises awaiting Abby as she discovers her father is almost unrecognizable due to his frail health and the biggest mean girl from her past, Misha Dale Jennings, is the assistant principal of their alma mater. She is also still drawn her high school crush Brent O’Connell, but she cannot deny her attraction to former bad boy, Dave Condor. With her best friend and co-worker, Joe Carter at her side, Abby and the rest of the team meet plenty of opposition as they begin their investigation of Optimal Plastics.
Abby must face the ghosts of her past right from the minute she arrives in town. She runs into Misha right away and while distrustful, she immediately experiences doubts that her memories of their shared past are accurate. She does not let her confusion get in the way of her job and despite the community’s lack of co-operation, she is undeterred as she tries to get to the truth about Optimal. Help from an unexpected ally proves to be instrumental in her investigation and Abbby slowly but surely begins to unearth very troubling details about the company. She also interviews a crucial witness whose information is eerily reminiscent of an unsavory game that destroyed many of her classmates’ reputations during high school. While Joe wants Abby to concentrate on events occurring in the present, Abby cannot shake her conviction that much of what is happening now is inexplicably connected to the things that happened in the past. Certain that locating Kaycee Mitchell will provide her with the answers she is searching for, Abby is undeterred as she tries to locate the missing woman.
Abby is initially professional and focused on the task at hand, but the darkness from her past quickly engulfs her. Unable to shake off her disturbing memories, her drinking soon spirals out of control and she begins making some very questionable decisions that could jeopardize their investigation. Abby must also deal with an unexpected situation with her father while her efforts to efforts to unearth the truth about Optimal lead to a jaw-dropping discovery.
Bonfire is a riveting mystery with a well-developed, topical storyline. Abby is a flawed but sympathetic protagonist who quickly discovers the only way to rid herself of her demons is to face them head on. Krysten Ritter brings this remarkable debut to an action-packed conclusion that is ultimately quite healing for Abby. Fans of the genre will enjoy this engaging, fast-paced mystery.