Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Posted April 28, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments



by Krysten Ritter

on November 7, 2017
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Target Age Group: Adult
Rating: ★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

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?


This books was … actually really good.

After being burned by Otherworld, I tread carefully when it comes to actors-turned-writers.  Still, I adore Krysten Ritter and couldn’t talk myself out of Bonfire.  I don’t read a lot of thrillers, but I do read some, and I love one that’s well-written.

I think I need to come at this book from two different angles – technique, and entertainment.

From a technique perspective, Bonfire reads very much like a debut.  It’s a little messy and could use some tightening up.  For example, I noticed two different points in the first 15% of the audiobook where our protagonist, Abby Williams, let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding.  I brace myself after that, ready for more of the worst cliches… and you know?  They didn’t really happen.

Don’t get me wrong, there were quite a lot of tropes and the general gist of the ending was very predictable.  It’s not a perfect book.  But.  It was thoroughly entertaining, and really?  That’s what matters.  I was in this book for the journey and I gobbled it up.

When we meet Abby, she says she’s going back to Barrons because she wants to look into a big company poisoning the water supply.  And while that’s all well and good, we know from the moment she says it that Abby Williams is definitely lying to herself and we want to know everything.  BOOM.  Hooked.  Of course, breaching environmental law is one thing, and she cares about it, but that’s not why she’s here.  We are introduced to Casey Mitchell in waves, and every little bit makes you more curious.  It took me a while to get a feel for Casey, because I wanted to hate her, but I wasn’t sure it was all true.  I wasn’t sure if Abby was an unreliable narrator – I knew other characters were unreliable – and I spent a lot of time trying to make up my mind about things.  Especially about Casey.

You may know the name Abigail Williams from The Crucible, and in the context of Bonfire, Krysten chose her main character’s name so well.  I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but lending back to the Salem’s Witch Trials and Arthur Miller’s tale of the girls who faked possession was perfect for this situation, because while Abby herself was not involved, this is, in part, a story about girls faking something terrible to scare people and get attention.  Just a small nerdy aside, but I really enjoyed the allusion.

There are a lot of mysteries tied up in Bonfire and they all get unraveled at the end.  There were a lot of little things I liked.  Things like the lawyer’s collective that were trying to keep Abby focused.  That the trope characters were balanced by very real people, so they felt less like tropes and more like terrible people wearing masks.  The love triangle was ridiculous and I wanted to be hateful, but I really liked how Krysten worked everything out in the end.

Ultimately, if you’re a fan of thrillers, this one is pretty good.  It’s not stylistically perfect, but Bonfire will ensnare you and keep you eagerly turning pages, looking for more.  If Krysten Ritter decides to write another book, I’d happily read it.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★
Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★ 1/2
Writing: ★★★ 1/2
Pacing: ★★★★★
Narrator: ★★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★ 1/2


What do you look for in a thriller?  Are you there for the journey, the twists, or just the ending?  Let me know what you like in this genre in the comments!

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