Small town secrets scare you silly.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
No. of pages: 288
Should you ever go back?
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.
I was really interested to see Krysten Ritter’s foray into writing. I have been a fan of her acting work and wanted to see how her talents translated to the written word. She excelled. Ritter’s writing style has the perfect way of world building and describing the scene in a few sentences before delving into the story.
I had a distinct case of writers envy with Ritter’s turn of phrase, it was almost melodic. She manages to intertwine the type of symbolism we usually get in contemporaries or Stephen King novels into the narration. The only thing stopping me from awarding this the perfect score was that the pacing was a little slow – but it usually is in this genre. Taking the time to set the scene, throw in some red herrings… it takes, well, time. For me, I wanted some more interesting or dramatic scenes in the way our protagonist Abby uncovers clues. It was still very gripping and realistic, but I love the melodrama and the gasps – always crave more from this type of novel.
I will say that I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen – I’m usually pretty good at predicting a novel, but ‘Bonfire’ had me completely stumped. Krysten Ritter literally baited me along the entire story and I loved it. She really knows how to craft a story. Just when you think the plot is about one thing, you discover it is about a totally different thing.
Abby as a protagonist is relatable, but a little difficult to love. Just about every character in this novel is flawed (including the protagonist) sometimes unapologetically, some out for redemption, some lost years ago and just treading water. Thus, it made for a compelling read, the characters are well developed, motivated and engaging. And while I was invested in Abby and her plight, I wanted a more innocent, relatable character to carry the story. But that’s my personal preference, and in all honesty, a character like that would have stolen some of the grittiness that seems from the tone of the novel and the town of Barrens in which ‘Bonfire’ is set.
And I’m a huge fan of characters returning to their childhood towns after getting out, revisiting old haunts and memories, so ‘Bonfire’ was right up my alley.
Some of the reveals I found shocking, and there are some trigger warning for this novel around date rape and paedophilia. There is also underage drinking and drug use. Additionally, I had a cringe away from the page from a certain moment in the climax worthy of a horror novel – so you have been warned.
I thought I would have a stronger emotional reaction to the events in ‘Bonfire.’ While Ritter writes great characters and can plot a marvellous storyline, I didn’t get that emotional attachment I needed to draw out the feels from some of the more dramatic plot points.
Still, an incredible strong debut I am proud to add to my library. I recommend you go grab a copy.
Overall feeling: What. Just. Happened?
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