Author: Krysten Ritter
Publisher: Hutchinson (Penguin UK)
Release date: 9th November 2017
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
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I’m going to be honest, I had my doubts when starting Krysten Ritter’s BONFIRE, which were completely baseless and rooted in this societal stigma that a celebrity who publishes a novel probably didn’t write it/had ghost writers/isn’t doing it for the ‘right’ reasons. Not to name names. I’m pleased to say BONFIRE surpassed the expectations I held.
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?
Abby left Barrens to escape her messy childhood and all the dark memories it held. Memories that include years of being bullied and her mother’s death. She has spent the past decade trying to bury her past but a new case means she has to go back home, along with her team, to investigate complaints about the water. This dredges up memories of an old case that happened when Abby was still in school, when a group of girls had supposedly fallen ill but was later revealed to be faking. And then one of them, Abby’s former best friend, went missing. The residents of Barrens say she ran away but Abby’s not so sure.
Even though Abby’s only there to make sure the water is safe, she finds herself digging deeper into the past and Optimal, the water company that seems to have everyone in the town in its pockets. Something fishy is going on that doesn’t involve the water and Abby uncovers a dark, horrifying secret about the town she once considered home. This book is rather short in comparison to some of the others I’ve read – online it’s listed as over 350 pages but the ARC is just over 270ish – yet it manages to pack a lot of suspense and background into less than 300 pages without it feeling like an info dump. It’s the first time I’ve read an adult thriller in a while and it reminded me how much I love them. The suspense and the burning questions, the pieces of the puzzle slowly falling into place and subtle foreshadowing only realised later on; Bonfire had all of this.
Alongside the initial Optimal investigation, Krysten Ritter explored the reality of neglect and bullying, and how young females are more likely to be reprimanded and tormented by their peers and the rest of society for something that a young male would be praised for. The story also showed that no matter how you try, more often than not, you cannot run from your past. It makes up a significant part of you and often subconsciously influences your decisions as an adult.