I’m a big fan of Krysten Ritter. I love her as Jessica Jones. She was a fun addition to Veronica Mars. She killed it as the B in Apartment 23. And she broke my heart on Breaking Bad. And now, she’s written her first novel **, a mysterious thriller that proves she’s an author to look out for in the future.
Bonfire tells the story of Abby, a tough environmental lawyer at a big Chicago firm, who is sent to the small (AND TERRIBLE) town where she grew up in Indiana to work on a case. It seems that the enormous chemical plant that pretty much employs the entire town just might be poisoning the water supply, and Abby puts on her best Erin Brokovich hat to find out what — if anything — is going on.
Meanwhile, her visit home brings back lots of memories that she’s been repressing for years, including the mysterious disappearance of her former best friend, Kaycee. Back in high school, Kaycee and her friends pretended to be severely sick…could her disappearance have anything to do with the case Abby is working on today?
There was a lot to like in this mystery. I kept changing my mind about who was good and who was bad, and whether or not Abby was a reliable narrator (a la Rachel in The Girl on the Train) because of her personal issues and her EXCESSIVE drinking.
Did I like Abby? I have no idea. Sometimes I thought she was a genius, and sometimes I thought she was insane, and most of the time I worried about what Ritter was going to do with her in the end to potentially redeem her from some of the mistakes she made along the way.
No worries there. Ritter totally surprised me with a few things toward the end that explained Abby’s irrational behavior. I still didn’t really like her, but at least she started to make some sense to me.
I didn’t love this book, but it was extraordinarily readable. I brought it with me when I chaperoned a ski trip with one of my kids, and stayed up well into the night trying to figure out the mystery. Ritter has a lot of potential, and I look forward to reading anything she might write in the future…I just hope that maybe her next book is a little bit lighter and fun. This one was definitely dark and intense.
**It seems that Ritter had a bit of help writing this book, primarily from my YA nemesis, Lauren Oliver. I don’t know exactly how involved Oliver was here, but her voice does not overpower Ritter’s, which is a good thing. There are some plot lines involving kids at the local high school that are probably more Oliver than Ritter, and that stuff was some of my least favorite in the book.