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?
So, I’m generally a skeptic when it comes to anybody crisscrossing into another career path. Musicians turning actor, actor turning musician and, apparently, actor turning author. But I am a big fan of Krysten Ritter, and it was one of the better picks for my Book of the Month club, so why not? Also, a caveat - this review may be refined and changed. I have a nasty dose of the flu (the joys of having a regular patient-zero in our home), so my brain is only fractionally functional!
Abby Williams is a small-town girl turned environmental lawyer, forced back to her hometown and all the bad memories it entails. Tasked with finding evidence of corruption by the big plastics company that basically owns the town, Abby is mired by memories of high school, where the popular girls, including her best-friend-turned-tormentor, had all been struck down with a mysterious illness before the ringleader disappeared. All of the girls eventually recanted their stories - except for Kaycee. Kaycee disappeared rather than face the music.
Abby is quickly caught up - torn between dealing with what she’s tasked with and wanting to dig deeper - trying to equate Kaycee Mitchell’s mystery illness and disappearance with the current claims and is affected deeply by her unreliable memories and the collision of her past with her present.
Ms. Ritter manages to weave together a set of complex characters with obvious ease and seamlessly ties together past and present, throwing in the extra complications of abandoned family, corporate greed, and small-town life to add to the realism. While I found some parts of the tale problematic (the excessive drinking, and the mansplained diatribe justifying the villain’s actions, for example), I found Bonfire to be slightly more deserving of comparison to some of those “other” novels than any previously compared.
The conclusion - with the exception of the aforementioned mansplainy diatribe - was satisfying and tied up neatly. Abby, despite her very many flaws, got closure, and so did we. No rush, no muss.
All in all, it’s a good addition to the genre. Ms. Ritter has a powerful voice and is clearly a woman of many talents. I will be looking forward to seeing more of her writing.