*Thanks for the free book, @CrownPublishing; it’s my pleasure to be a part of your monthly book send programme and provide honest reviews for the titles chosen*
It’s no secret I love a small-town mystery, so I jumped at the opportunity to read Bonfire. I had no idea the author of this novel, was an actress, well-known for her role in the Netflix series Marvel’s Jessica Jones and cult favourite Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 – what can I say, I prefer the book to the screen.
From the inside cover:
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’s 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 she tries desperately to find out what really happened to Kaycee, troubling memories begin to resurface and she begins to doubt her own observations. And when she unearths an even more disturbing secret–a ritual called “The Game”–it will threaten reputations, and lives, in 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 square miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of what happens when your past and present collide.
If you enjoy a slow-burner, seeing a mystery slowing unravel, seeing one woman’s obsession with the past collide with her future, then you need to seriously consider reading Bonfire. There are essentially two storylines in this novel, the case that brought Abby back to her hometown – is Optimal Plastics contaminating the town’s water supply, and the mystery of Kaycee Mitchell; and as is expected in a small town, everything is connected, the key is how? Abby is here to investigate but she’s about to find out just how strong the lure of her past is…
“Barrens has its roots in me. If I want it gone forever. I’ll have to cut them out myself.”
I really enjoyed the environmental investigation taking place in this novel; it wasn’t bogged down with legal jargon and it showed the likeability of Abby’s character – in the sense that you’re actually hoping the water is polluted so Abby can win the case. This storyline reminded me of the film, Erin Brockovich, which I absolutely loved – just for the theme of environmental damage alone; I suppose you could say this heightened my enjoyment of this storyline because of that association but this investigation is not without its own intrigue. Optimal are reviving this town and everybody’s too scared to speak out against this organisation for fear of backlash.
The real thriller element in this novel lies in the mystery of Kaycee Mitchell. Ritter draws you in and builds the suspense to the point of desperation – you, the reader, become desperate to know why Kaycee Mitchell disappeared, my thinking pattern, on loop, was something like: is Kaycee’s disappearance even connected to Optimal or did she just choose to leave town? Was she paid to disappear? Was she forced to disappeared? Does she need rescuing? Is she actually a power player in Optimal? Is she even alive!?
Abby is just as obsessed as the reader, desperate to know what happened to Kaycee, desperate to believe Optimal is poisoning her old town, so with solving these mysteries she can lay to rest her demons from the past:
“– my mess, my mystery, my case.”
Ritter allows us to journey into Abby’s past, her school days, and home life, in Barrens, and it’s dark, it’s no wonder she moved to Chicago!
I did find the conclusion to the mystery of Kaycee’s disappearance slightly underwhelming, not because of the reason for her disappearance but because of the way it was told – I can’t elaborate without spoilers, but it wasn’t a major issue. I really enjoyed this novel and it incorporated all that I look for in a small-town mystery, the claustrophobic atmosphere that comes with everyone knowing everyone, and the intimacy the reader has with the characters and most importantly, the stifling slow building suspense.