I love tv crime dramas - following the clues, putting the pieces together, and catching the bad guys - even if it is all so predictable, I wouldn't trade it for anything. But mystery books? Mystery books aren't what I typically gravitates towards. Bonfire by Krysten Ritter is the official exception now (and may just be the book that gets me into a whole new genre).
3.44 stars on The StoryGraph
Fiction, mystery, thriller
Dark, mysterious, tense
Animal death, toxic friendship, adult/minor relationship, cancer, addiction, child abuse, alcoholism, animal cruelty, bullying (click here for the full list).
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, (StoryGraph Summary).
I will admit the only reason I picked this book up was because I loved Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones (and am still crossing my fingers they bring the show back). I've only read a handful of mystery novels in my time, and while I enjoyed them, they didn't pull me into the genre like Bonfire did.
Abby Williams is the main character - and while she does certain things that I don't agree with (like drinking too much and getting herself in trouble), she is a driven, complex character that just wants to know the truth. Out of everything in this book, I resonated with that the most - just wanting answers, wanting to know what happened and why it happened.
I also liked the limited character perspective. As a reader, I only knew Abby's thoughts, feelings, and opinions. But Krysten Ritter wrote these interactions in a way that still made me have doubts and suspicions even though Abby didn't. For example, in the Bonfire MicroBlog (linked below), one character Brent O'Connell is, in Abby's eyes, a good person (and an old high school crush).
However, as the reader I just had a bad feeling about this Brent guy. I don't know whether it was the writing or just my extensive knowledge of mystery arcs that made him stand out from the other characters, but I knew he was trouble. So, I have to congratulate Ritter on that one.
In terms of the plot, the story held my interest and the super short chapters helped me fly through this book once I got into it. In addition to the above comment, I really liked that Abby isn't a detective, she's a lawyer. This means that she is trying to solve this mystery without any actual detective experience like you would normally see in this genre. It makes her a bit of an unreliable narrator, and the ending only proves this.
All in all, I gave this book 5 stars, because 1) I can be overgenerous, and 2) this is a mystery book that has changed my view of mystery books. I'm already thinking I should add a new tag on my StoryGraph for this genre. Also Ritter has stated that she wrote this book because she was looking at all the amazing female-authors on her bookshelf and wanted to be one as well. And this has truly inspired me to keep writing my own book so I can be on bookshelves too!