Bonfire, by Krysten Ritter (2017)

Mystery
Adult
Bonfire, by Krysten RitterAbby Williams is one of the few to escape her small town in Indiana and get an education. She is now an environmental lawyer in Chicago, with a great future, a sweet apartment, and a set of friends, along with a rotation of bed partners. Despite her success she has barely unpacked her belongings in her big-city apartment. This is someone who is either living a lie or can’t shake her roots and is poised to escape again. Perhaps a bit of both. The book open as Abby returns home to investigate Optimal Plastics, the town’s main employer, for allegations of water pollution. She hasn’t been back in 10 years, though her father still lives in the aptly named Barrens. Abby has just pulled into town when her old nemesis Misha Dale appears. Misha, who tormented her in high school, calling her vicious names and starting nasty rumours. An all-round bully who is now the vice-principal at the high school she once ruled. At every turn, another former classmate appears. Have they changed? Has Abby? Missing though is Kaycee Mitchell, who ran away at graduation when the fake illness she and her friends had cooked up was revealed. Despite the girls’ admission to faking, Abby wonders if there is any truth to it, the possible start of Optimal’s environmental crimes. Ritter, an actor best known for her roles in Jessica Jones and as the untrustworthy B* in Apartment 23, has delivered a credible mystery with strong characters and a generally well-developed plot, though the far-reaching corruption and abuse stretched credulity for me. As one who “escaped” her own small town, I found it rather difficult to witness Abby fall under the spell of those who had been so cruel to her. The ending is a bit rushed and the evildoer will come as no surprise to most readers. Despite these defects, I enjoyed the book more and more as I read it. Ritter has an engaging writing style that is easy to read, and occasionally startles the attentive reader with biting observations and sparkling phrases: When did other people’s happiness start feeling like assault?, I came back to bury the past, but instead the past is burying me. and another favourite, There are the people of the world who squeeze and the ones who suffocate. A solid dark mystery with a few forgivable flaws. My thanks to Crown Publishing for the advance digital reading copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34259859.
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