Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book


Rate this book
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.

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?

288 pages, Hardcover

First published November 7, 2017

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Krysten Ritter

6 books2,141 followers
KRYSTEN RITTER is well known for her starring roles in the award winning Netflix original series, Marvel's Jessica Jones, and cult favorite, Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, as well as her pivotal role on AMC’s Breaking Bad. Krysten’s work on film includes Big Eyes, Listen Up Philip, Life Happens, Confessions of a Shopaholic and She’s Out of My League. She is the founder of Silent Machine, a production company which aims to highlight complex female protagonists. Ritter and her dog Mikey split their time between New York and Los Angeles.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
2,930 (13%)
4 stars
8,198 (38%)
3 stars
7,850 (36%)
2 stars
1,965 (9%)
1 star
401 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,033 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,964 reviews294k followers
November 13, 2017
Going into this book, I had no idea who Krysten Ritter was. It was only when I went to the Goodreads page just now that I realized she's an actress. So I had approached this as I would any hyped thriller with an enticingly fiery cover. Unfortunately, though, I found Bonfire to have a recycled plot that lacked a certain juicy nastiness I like in my thrillers.

And isn't this a story we've seen a thousand times?

Maybe it's just me, but I feel like I've read countless versions of a woman escaping her smalltown life, only to grow up and become a detective or lawyer or whatever and return to solve a mystery and face all the people and unresolved issues of her past. I even think I've read a bunch of romance variations on this plot, too. It reminds me a little of Sharp Objects, but Ritter is no Gillian Flynn.

I felt like Ritter was trying to capture the "evil teen girls" vibe that so many authors want to tap into. The protagonist - Abby Williams - has a lot of personal demons and they're mostly related to the bullying she endured during her schooldays. Though I think this intense world of teenage girldom has been explored much better by other authors, from Megan Abbott to Abigail Haas.

Bonfire sees Abby, now an environmental lawyer, returning to her hometown and hoping to uncover the truth about Optimal, a plastics corporation. Abby believes Optimal has been polluting the town's water supply and caused a string of unexplained illnesses among her classmates years ago. One of whom disappeared. The classmates in question claimed it was a harmless prank, but Abby's convinced otherwise.

I completely appreciate the importance of environmental pollution issues but I've got to say-- it's a bit of a hard sell as a compelling thriller. I only recall Paolo Bacigalupi doing it successfully. There was just never a moment when the book took hold of me and made me desperate to know the answers.

It was also just very unconvincing overall. I couldn't understand why Abby was so adamant that the pollution took place when even those who got sick claimed it wasn't true. It's not a spoiler to state the obvious - there is something more going on, but I don't know why Abby would think that. And Bonfire relies heavily on Abby conveniently remembering, forgetting, or deducing (quite incredibly) as needed. Abby makes many tenuous connections between some clue - that fell into her lap - and the truth, whilst jumping to conclusions that I doubt anyone would have made.

Also thought it was strange how Abby quickly developed TWO romantic relationships with the men of Barrens, but it didn't have any impact on the story whatsoever.

There is a moment at the climax of the novel which is easily the most thrilling of the whole book, and it was my favourite part, but the culprit will come as a surprise to few. They were so obviously shady that I had almost convinced myself they were a glaring red herring.

The climax leads into an extremely rushed ending-- we discover the villain, witness a face-off, and wrap it all up in the last fifteen pages of the book. Messy and disappointing.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
June 5, 2017

Krysten Ritter rocks. Not only is she a total badass on Jessica Jones, and she rocked my world (and made me laugh out loud constantly) on her old television series Don't Trust the B— in Apartment 23 (still bitter it was canceled), but now her debut novel, Bonfire, is a really good read. I hate overachievers...

Abby Williams couldn't get out of her Indiana hometown, Barrens, fast enough. Tormented by her childhood best friend Kaycee and her band of mean-girl minions, mistreated by her father, she fled the first chance she got, changed her accident and landed a job as an environmental lawyer in Chicago.

"I couldn't even explain it to myself. All I knew is that Barrens broke something inside of me. It warped the needles on my compass and turned the south to north and lies to truth and vice versa."

Ten years later, Abby's firm is investigating Optimal Plastics, the most high-profile company in Barrens, and the one that single-handedly rescued the town from all but certain elimination. The thought of going home again and facing her nemeses, including her father, is almost too much to bear, but she'll admit that the opportunity to enact a little revenge isn't totally unappealing. But it's not too long after she arrives back in Barrens that she realizes that the more things change the more they stay the same—or people want to pretend things have changed, even when they haven't.

As Abby and her colleagues try to make sense of whether Optimal is truly the town's savior or more of a danger, she finds herself unable to shake her memories of a scandal that Kaycee and her three friends were involved in all those years ago, a scandal which could possibly have ties to the problems with Optimal occurring today. She's desperate to find out what really happened to Kaycee, who allegedly disappeared all those years ago, and she is trying to decide whom she should trust—if anyone.

To uncover the truth, Abby must reopen doors that people want to remain closed, and that includes coming to terms with her father as well. She finds a web of blackmail, corruption, trading sexual favors, and lie upon lie. Her job and her mental state, perhaps even her life, are at stake.

I'm always a little bit dubious when a celebrity writes a novel. Sure, there are talented writers among them, but for every Carrie Fisher and Ethan Hawke comes a James Franco or Joan Collins. Ritter has a natural voice as a storyteller, and the book quickly hooks you and doesn't let you go, even as you may see how things will play themselves out. She is particularly impressive with her imagery as well as her descriptions of emotions, and what it's like to return home to a place where you never felt comfortable anyway.

It's not a perfect debut—she falls into the trap that so many action and crime movies do, where the villain gives a long, dramatic speech justifying why they were so hell-bent on destroying everything. (See Michael Shannon in Man of Steel for one.) But while that is a little annoying, I found Bonfire a really compelling read, one I devoured pretty quickly and enjoyed quite a bit. I'll definitely be looking out for Ritter's next book at some point.

Okay, Krysten...now how about a Don't Trust the... reunion?

NetGalley and Crown Publishing provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for Meredith (Slowly Catching Up).
794 reviews12.4k followers
November 12, 2017
Solid 3.5 stars

Bonfire is an addictive mystery about corporate greed and small town scandals.

After 10 years of living in anonymity in Chicago, environmental lawyer Abby Williams returns to her tiny hometown Barrens, Indiana to investigate Optimal Plastics, a corporation that not only fuels the town’s economy, but also saturates Barrens with its philanthropic efforts. Residents of Barrens are getting sick, and Abby believes their illnesses are a result of water contamination caused by Optimal. Abby, who was tormented and bullied throughout high school is desperate to uncover the dirt on Optimal, as she believes the corporation is not only harming the residents of Barrens, but also led to the illness of childhood best friend and high school frenemy, Kaycee Mitchell.

Flashback 10 years ago: Kaycee Mitchell was the “It” girl at Barrens High School. She and her group of minions created “The Game,” which worked to torment and bully their peers. Kaycee and her minions made Abby’s life a living hell. When Kaycee begins getting sick, her illness "spreads" to her group of friends. Once Kaycee's friends admit their illness was a hoax, she goes missing never to be seen agian.

Upon her return to Barrens, Abby must confront her teenage enemies, her high school crush, and her abusive father. Fueled by her obsession with Optimal and Kaycee, her behavior spirals out of control putting her in imminent danger.

Bonfire is a compulsive read that hooked me from the start. I loved the dark, snarky tone and felt like Ritter did a stellar job of fleshing out the town of Barrens. Abby is a strong, yet unreliable narrator. In the back of my head, I kept picturing her as Jessica Jones without superpowers! The mystery surrounding Kaycee drew me in. My only complaint is that the last ¾ unravels and becomes a bit convoluted. Overall, this is an impressive debut by Krysten Ritter!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,839 followers
March 23, 2018
Impressive debut for Ritter! When you see a famous person crossing over into a medium they are not known for, you worry it could be cringe-worthy or a total disaster. But, she does a pretty good job jumping right into the middle of the mystery/thriller genre and does a lot better than some more famous books (I am looking at you The Girl on the Train).

Now, all that being said, if this was the 10th book from a well-established author, some might not be quite as impressed. There are a few clichéd tropes that felt a little forced and some coincidences to move the story along. I go back my defense of this being her first effort. When you think of it that way, it is not too distracting. I would probably do the same thing if I ever write a book!

I have no problem recommending this book to anyone who likes a good thriller. Also, I hear that one of Ritter’s goals is to write, and encourage others to write, stories with strong female leads. So, if you like female leads, this is for you!

Side note: The book takes place in Indiana. I live in Indiana. It is not too big of a deal, but I am not sure how much Ritter familiarized herself with the geography of the state before writing. At one point, the main character talks about her home town being on her way between Chicago and New York (Northern Indiana). Then she mentions being in Southern Indiana. Then she talks about it being near I-70 – if a town is on I-70 it is either in Western, Central, or Eastern Indiana. So, yeah, if you are not from the state it probably doesn’t matter – but I was a little confused!
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,540 reviews9,832 followers
August 5, 2022
**3.5-stars rounded up**

This is a debut novel for Krysten Ritter, well known as playing Jessica Jones in the Netflix original series of the same name.

I was dubious going in, I'll admit. The whole singers becoming actors, actors becoming writers thing...

However, with that being said, I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging this book was.

Bonfire follows environmental attorney, Abigail Williams, as she returns to her hometown to investigate its largest employer, Optimal Plastics.

After arriving, Abby is thrown back into her old life, a life she thought she had escaped.

Memories are churned up that lead her to question events that occurred when she was in high school.

Through continued flashbacks, as well as current events, a vicious tale of corruption and betrayal begins to unfold.

The pace was very quick. I flew through it. Due to the short chapter lengths, it is definitely a book that has that, just one more chapter, way about it!

The format of the book itself is pretty standard, reminding me a bit of John Grisham's, The Rainmaker. Although there is nothing ground-breaking about the story itself, it is definitely fun to read and overall, strong storytelling.

I think this would be a great book to bring on vacation, or a weekend holiday.

I hope Ms. Ritter keeps writing because I have a feeling overtime her writing will mature and her books will continue to get stronger and stronger.

My only issue with the book, and it is a slight one, was that the ending felt too rushed. Personally, I think this could have been 20-to-40 pages longer in order to better explore the outcome of events that Abby reveals; both past and present.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Legal Thrillers!
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,606 reviews24.8k followers
October 11, 2017
This is an atmosphere drenched and compelling crime debut from Krysten Ritter set in Barrens, a small town in Indiana. As children, Abby Williams and Kaycee Mitchell were best friends, only for Kaycee to turn on Abby with her coterie of friends at school. Hating her father and her miserable life, Abby is the one that got away. She lives in Chicago and is a environmental lawyer, returning to Barrens after a decade away, to investigate Optimal Plastics, a corporation that singlehandedly saved Barrens from economic and social devastation. It funds a number of social enterprises, provides scholarships and employment, and is at the heart of the community, with the majority of the town fiercely loyal to the company. Optimal is, however, dogged by rumours of corruption, contaminating the water supply and more. Abby may have moved away from Barrens, but Barrens and its secrets have never left her. This time she wants answers to the past, only to find that the past looms large in the present.

Abby arrives in Barren with a group that includes her best friend, Joe, a black gay lawyer, setting up office on the Gallagher farm. They find a community hostile to their presence and the threat they represent. Two complainants drop their claims, but they continue to probe. Abby finds herself confronted by ghosts from the past, from the meanest girl, Mischa, who is now Vice Principal at Barren High School to her father who is a shadow of his former self. Haunted by Kaycee, a talented painter, telling her that problem is not that she cannot draw but that she does not see, Abby is convinced there is a connection with Kaycee and their current investigation into Optimal. Kaycee was popular, a born liar, poisoned Abby's dog, involved in the deplorable Game and blackmail, and apparently pretended to be sick with her friends to scam payments from Optimal and left Barrens soon after. However, Abby had seen Kaycee coughing up blood and displaying other worrying symptoms, and knows Kaycee was sick. Abby strikes up a relationship with Condor and Brent, and finds her drinking is spiralling out of control, all too aware that she is drawn to things that hurt the most. As all those close to her abandon her, questioning her conviction that the past and Kaycee is relevant and connected to Optimal, Abby finds her sanity is on the line as the past threatens to bury her.

Krysten Ritter has written a gripping and beautifully written crime debut. It is tense and suspenseful, drawing in the reader with ease. The greatest strengths of the book lie in the complex character creation and development of Abby, a woman who wants to come to terms with the past so that she can be alive in the present. Ritter presents a picture of a woman paying a heavy price as she gets closer to the truth, no-one believes her, yet despite her life disintegrating around her, she clings on with a tenuous grip with determination. She wants to do right by her childhood friend, Kaycee, even though Kaycee is a less than admirable character. The portrayal of Barren and its community is done remarkably well. I loved this brilliant book and whilst it does have its flaws, I recommend it highly. Many thanks to Random House Cornerstone for an ARC.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,137 reviews8,152 followers
November 4, 2017
This was a really strong debut and one of the better mystery/thrillers I've read in a while. Of course it had it's issues, though they were small and mostly due to editing in my opinion (the infamous "I released a breath I didn't realize I was holding" was used 3 times in the first half of the book...). Otherwise I found the characters to be strong, especially Abby our MC who is returning home to confront her past and a possibly corrupt corporation who is funding much of the small town she's from. The blending of past and present was seamless and really added a depth to the story that gave her justification for her actions and explanation for everything going on. It didn't feel forced or convenient like a lot of thrillers do. I'll be looking forward to what Ritter writes next! This one's definitely worth checking out.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,738 reviews14.1k followers
November 20, 2017
3.5 Back home to Indiana, is the last place Abby wants to go, a place where she was bullied daily. Now an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she is a confident, more centered person. When a case in her old hometown sends her and her team back to investigate a company that seems to have the town in it's pockets, she is sure she can handle it. But can she?

Two different ratings for each half of the book. Very encouraging start, well written, seemed to have more substance than some other books in this genre. Nice mix of personal remembrances, traumas, with some interesting legwork on the investigation. Of course, all her ghosts come back to haunt her, unfinished business, old acquaintances who were not friends but now seem to want to be, and a mystery, a girl who had supposedly left town, a girl who had once been her friend. This part of the story garnered a four.

Then the second part of the story, was disappointed, not in the resolution of the plot, but in the way the main character her acted. Descended into a bad melodrama so different from the controlled writing and personality exhibited in the first half. Found it jarring and not totally believable, too, too much happened, thought it was unrealistic. So the second half I would rate a three. Hence my 3.5 rating.

So for me this was an unbalanced read. Was interesting, good, a little different but could have been better without the exploding second half. IMO

ARC from Netgalley.

Profile Image for Caro (Bookaria).
615 reviews19.5k followers
December 29, 2017
This book exceeded my expectations!

I've known the author Krysten Ritter from her work in the TV series Breaking Bad and Jessica Jones. So when I learned she had written a book I felt a little skeptical at first, but I am glad I put those thoughts aside and jumped into this novel.

Abby Williams is an environmental lawyer that returns to her childhood town to investigate the area's most important company: Optimal Plastics. There have been claims in the past of wrong-doing by that business and Abby is determined to find out if these claims are true.

During her stay, Abby is also interested in finding out if the disappearance of Kaycee Mitchell 10 years ago is related to Optimal Plastics or related to darker secrets long buried.

In her search for evidence, Abby must face the people and memories she left behind. The story is told from the point of view of the main character and is set in the small town of Barrens, Indiana.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel and recommend it to readers of mysteries, thrillers, and contemporary fiction.

April 8, 2021
Traveling Sisters Group Review

We started off intrigued by this story but soon became weighted down with a little too much drama and the dirty not-so-little secrets to this story. We became mentally exhausted and annoyed from it all and we just wanted to close our books and find a nice grassy spot to have a nap. However, our main character Abby was quite loud in our heads with the wild and annoying ways that she spun us down to some murky and lonesome places along with her.

Even though this one didn’t quite work for some of us, it did take a turn that did catch my attention and had me raising my head from the murk and weeds and turning the pages to find out how it ended. I ended up in a satisfied with this story.

Traveling Sisters Review also can be found on our blog

Profile Image for Katie.
267 reviews3,839 followers
December 6, 2017
Such a fun debut novel! This premise of "the girl returning to her disturbing home town" has been done before, but I still found this incredibly unique. Review is up on my channel! Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdvJn...
Profile Image for Julie .
4,030 reviews58.9k followers
December 26, 2017
Bonfire by Krysten Ritter is a 2017 Crown Archetype publication.

A heavily atmospheric and absorbing crime story-

When environmental lawyer, Abby Williams returns to her hometown in Indiana to investigate illnesses which could be connected to the town’s life force and largest employer, Optimal Plastics, she immediately, regrets coming back.

She soon learns her estranged father is quite ill, and she is flooded with childhood memories of her best friend, a girl named Kaycee, who may or may not have been exhibiting signs of illness, who has simply vanished into thin air, leaving Abby haunted and hollow, even after all these years.

She also experiences a strong wall of resistance from the town’s residents, who are afraid she will uncover something about Optimal that will affect their livelihoods.

But, Abby is determined to learn the truth behind Kaycee’s disappearance, and the possible cover up by Optimal, as well as a connection between a scholarship program the plant offers, catering to female applicants only.

Yet the deeper Abby digs, the more convinced she is that something very sinister is going on, but her work is heavily compromised by the spike in her alcohol consumption and her erratic behavior, which could get her kicked off the case.

Bonfire is a dark, moody, edgy novel of suspense, very engrossing, and convincing. The atmosphere is very heavy and thick, the foreboding palpable. A town willing to do almost anything, including sweeping evidence of scandal under the carpet, to save Optimal Plastic, sets up a tense and ugly tug of war for Abby, who is also being courted by a crowd of people that shunned her back in high school, while also receiving a few veiled threats.

Abby quickly becomes obsessed with Kaycee, believing she holds the key to unlocking the secrets the town is so desperate to protect.

Abby’s narration is what makes the story work, in my opinion. She’s cynical, yet harbors the scars of high school cruelty, which makes her susceptible to certain unrealized yearning that affects her decision making skills.

Although fragile emotionally, Abby is tenacious in her single minded pursuit. The story has a taut sense of urgency, which propels the reader forward, unable to look away as Abby’s well -orchestrated professional life begins to circle the drain, along with her sanity.

Ritter did a fine job creating sympathetic characters, with a slow, but enticing plot, that reveals small town cover-ups and scandals wrapped around a timely subject, shining a spotlight on corporate power and greed, which really resonated with me. I got sucked into this story right away, finding it very hard a put down.

I am not a television fan, but my husband and I binged watched, ‘Breaking Bad’ a while back and loved it. But, I still did not connect Ritter to her acting credentials until I started writing this review.

Wow. I have to say I am impressed with this debut novel! This is a very solid crime novel and I hope it is not just a one off for the author. She has potential here and I hope she will capitalize on it fully.

4 stars
Profile Image for Tan Markovic.
339 reviews137 followers
April 29, 2019
Reviews can be found at: www.booknerdtan.wordpress.com

I was sooo excited when I found out Krysten Ritter was releasing a debut novel especially in one of my favourite genres. I am obsessed with her as Jessica Jones and loved the role she played in Breaking Bad.

Shit, I loved this book. Ritter created such a dark, eerie atmosphere throughout, the plot is very fast paced and the characters from her new and past life are introduced thick and fast. I’m sucker for this type of format ever since I read Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects – girl leaves town that fucked her up, girl becomes successful detective (or in this case lawyer), girl returns to town full of crime and secrets that need solving. It was so easy to work out who the bad guys were early on which was a bit of a shame, however it didn’t affect the story for me all that much, it was still very engaging and I enjoyed the story a great deal.

The only real annoyance I had with this novel was the fact there was a few speculations thrown out throughout, obviously to catch us out whilst reading, however, there were a fair few left unexplained and not blended into the story and it felt a bit obvious that red herrings were just being thrown whenever. It also a shame we never got much of Abby’s life in Chicago – and how did she end up getting there?

Definitely recommend this to anyone who loves thrillers/mystery and I can’t wait for Ritter’s future novels!
Profile Image for Skyler Autumn.
228 reviews1,394 followers
April 13, 2018
2 Stars

The dialogue is cheesy and people speak in metaphors, there's way too many subplots, conclusions are fast and abrupt being pulled from thin air, the protagonist has a weird gifted memory that can remember every childhood conversation down to the smallest detail (what is she; magic?) and everyday basic interaction seems to leave our sloppy unlikable protagonist breathless, like really? You feel the air has been knocked out of you again!! I'm starting to think our leading lady feels too much.

This book is a choppy, repetitive mess to say the absolute least (where's the editor at?). Hey I like Jessica Jones just as much as the next gal but if you take off the fanbase blinders for a second you will realize this book can't hold a candle to even the most mediocre of Thriller novels.

Review to Come.
Profile Image for ELLIAS (elliasreads).
477 reviews38.2k followers
December 25, 2017
Your problem, Abby, isn't that you can't draw. It's that you can't see.

I was a bit hesitant when I first head about this book: a celebrity writing a suspense thriller? What could possibly go wrong?
Well, let me tell you: so many damn things.

But, but,

Bonfire , surprisingly, was actually good. Wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either. We have the recycled trope of the main character, who is an environmentalist lawyer, going back to her hometown and diving deep in the secrets of the past while solving or working on the case in that same town.

This particular trope can be overly used and kind of repetitive, and while it was interesting to see some of the environmental issues and political aspects this book brought up, it was hardly compelling or even engaging enough to capture my full attention. Especially for a 'thriller'. I wouldn't even call it that tbh. More like a very, very slow mystery. That's it.

The first 120 pages doesn't even delve deep into the mystery, but more about the central characters. The development and actual writing here was what made me plow through though. Krysten's knack for writing was really interesting but nothing too special. I called the twist/whodunit before I think it was even introduced to us and the choices the MC made literally drove me fucking crazy I was so annoyed. The last 10 pages however, changed the fucking game and I was legit all in.

But literally, it ended on such a big ass rush, that by the time everything wrapped up, I thought it was way too messy and abrupt and just wish there was something more on the ending.

But I'll still be on the lookout for Krysten Ritter's future work; I'm excited to see where she takes us next (Jessica Jones badass smirk insert here). A well rounded and 'good' debut for Ms. Jones ;).

Twitter | Bookstagram | Youtube |
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,034 reviews1,421 followers
November 17, 2017
Probably one of the best celebrity-penned novels I have read. I wasn't sure what to expect, from just the synopsis, which suggested mystery thriller, political, and possibly also science fiction elements. And this feeling, of being on unsure footing with this book, continued to dog my entire reading of it. In the best possible way, this is a novel that has so many layers to it that it became impossible to categorise it as solely ever about one thing.

On one level, this is an insight into small town life, and the prejudice and misogyny still prevalent there, passed down among the generations like family recipes and antique heirlooms. This is also a chronicle of just one life, that of our protagonist, Abby Williams, and her experiences growing up, leaving, and then returning to her childhood town. This is, too, a novel about family relationships, of both the best and the worst kind. The nature vs. nurture discussion can be used to navigate these characters action, as can the influence of a small town upbringing against that in a larger city, where much of what we do remains anonymous. There is a thrilling element to this book, that uses flashbacks alongside current events to reveal the mystery dogging the narrative. Also a political edge narrows the focus to mega corporations and the dirt their money can hide, so long as they know just where to flash it.

Every element combined to make this a truly unforgettable story, if not a perfectly unique one. It made this a compelling one-sitting read and Ritter an individual I want to read more from.
Profile Image for Diana | Book of Secrets.
781 reviews571 followers
November 18, 2017
4.25 Stars → I was impressed with Krysten Ritter's debut novel. I'm kind of out of touch with TV & movies, so I didn't realize the author was an actor until finishing. I quickly grabbed this title when I saw it was suspense and didn't pay much attention to the blurb. Anyway, I enjoyed it.

Abby Williams is an environmental lawyer who's returned to her tiny hometown to investigate possible contamination by a plastics company with a whole lot of influence in Barrens, Indiana. Abby hasn't been home in ten years, not since her friend-turned-bully disappeared just after graduation. Barrens is full of bad memories for Abby, but her relationship with the town and people in it is unresolved, which is why this troubling pollution case is important to her.

I liked the author's writing style and her ability to hook me with her flawed and not-so-likable characters. The overall atmosphere of the book is dark and foreboding, perfect for this gripping mystery/suspense. Looking forward to more from Krysten Ritter.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Penguin's First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Joce (squibblesreads).
230 reviews4,919 followers
December 3, 2017
3.75 stars: I was pleasantly surprised by this! Thrillers can too often present overused tropes and plot turns based on convenience, not to mention sensationalizing mental illness and misogyny but thankfully there was none of that here (of course, there should be no bonus/gratuitous lauding or applauding things for not being misogynistic) . I enjoyed the focus on environment and law while also exploring the complicated relationships one can have in high school and toxic masculinity. I wasn’t 100% sold on the presentation of the concepts and characters all of the time but I thought it was strong and otherwise unharmful.
Profile Image for JanB .
1,146 reviews2,500 followers
January 23, 2018
Abby, a small town girl who left for the big city after high school, returns 10 years later as an environmental lawyer to investigate a plastics company suspected of polluting the town's waters. While there, Abby must face demons from her past: an estranged father, mean girls, bullying, and the long-ago disappearance of a friend turned mean-girl.

The evil corporation story line failed to keep my interest and I had to force myself to not skim.  The teen 'mean girls' story line is a particular dislike of mine so that probably colored my impression of the book too.  Abby, the main character, is unlikable and unsympathetic, so there was nothing left that I cared about. There was a twist at the end but it was too little/too late for me, and it was in a direction I wish the author had not gone.

I realize this is a debut and I admire the author for stepping out of the acting role and writing a book. I do hope she continues to write and I would be interested to see what she writes next. With a few tweaks this could have been a much better book. The story suffered from tackling too many plot lines and could have benefitted from narrowing the focus and delving deeper into one or two.

I read this with the traveling sisters, Brenda and Nikki. It's always fun to read with the sisters and we have interesting discussions even when we go off on a tangent :-) Unfortunately we were underwhelmed this time. We neither hated nor loved it. This review and others can be found on their blog:
December 9, 2017
I want to thank NetGalley and Crown Publishing for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. I appreciate this opportunity.

I also want to give a shout out to Trang from Bookidote! Trang and I buddy read this book starting at the halfway mark. 😂 She offered great insight! Trang is an awesome blogger and new friend! She is so sweet and funny! Check her blog out and show her some love!😉❤🤗

Synopsis: Abby Williams is a lawyer who works with chemicals and the environment based in Chicago. Different days of the week she has different men in her bed but she feels all alone. She tries to drink away her pain often and numb her feelings out. The only person she feels she can lean on is her colleague Joe.

Abby battles her demons and has faced obsessive thoughts from her past. Ten years ago as a graduating senior Abby was bullied furiously by the “it” crowd whose main star was Abby’s childhood friend, Kaycee Mitchell. When Kaycee mysteriously goes missing after claiming she was sick by the local plastic plant this has a lasting effect on Abby. Even though she hated Kaycee and her crowd in high school she felt there was something she could not shake.

Abby constantly keeps bringing herself back to the past and trying to put the pieces together. Abby finally stumbles across a complaint made by someone about the plant and Abby and her team head to her home town the Barrens. She heads to the Barrens to seek justice and ends up facing more than she could think possible.

Abby has to face; corruption, her abusive father, old high school bullies and new horrors in her home town. She runs into everyone from her childhood in this small town. Will Abby bring justice and be able to fight her personal demons?

Review: Omg! I loved this book! Not only is written by the awesome and sexy Krysten Ritter, it was fantastic. I give this crime thriller 4.5 stars out of 5 stars. I felt like I could feel all of Abby’s emotions and a lot of the traumas that happened in this book I could relate to. At moments it was hard for me to turn the page because of the intensity, but it kept me pulling me back in. I really enjoyed this book and was satisfied I requested it through NetGalley. My only issue, which really wasn’t an issue was the very end I didn’t know if they were leaving it open or that’s how she wanted to finish things. This book showed the reality of how bullying effects people and the horror. This was a terrific crime thriller. I highly recommend this book!
Profile Image for Ideally.Portia.
392 reviews39 followers
June 10, 2017

Memories are like fire, and need only a little oxygen to grow.

I have been a huge fan of hers since Veronica Mars days. I will watch anything she is in. So when I found out she was crossing into my favorite world, the book world, I was SO FREAKING EXCITED. I rushed to see if it was available on Netgalley. Then worried I wouldn't get approved. BUT THEN I DID. So of course I started it immediately. Im so excited to say that it sucked me in so quickly, I had a hard time putting it down! You know what is coming now right? YES. A review full of Krysten Ritter gifs!!! YAY!

First let me address any possible hesitation you may have about reading this book. You know how when a singer is so famous they get full of themselves and think they can act too? (AHEM, Mariah Carey) Or just because you can act means you can also sing? Well what if just because she is a talented actress/ producer that means she can write a book without it sucking? I have faith in her, but the question still lingered. But all of that was pretty quickly put to silence the farther into the book I got.

I'm not going to recap the entire synopsis for you, because ideally you read that on your way to seeing this review. So I will just jump in. Our protagonist, Abby, has headed back home after many years for work - and by work, I obviously mean facing people and uncovering secrets from her past. Okay, so there is some actual work involved too. She is an environmental lawyer, and the only real experience I have with what they do comes from Erin Brockovich. But it felt well researched, which always makes me happy. So she goes in headstrong, in attempt to not let everyonein town turn her back into the weak person she once was. She is pretty likable, until she hits the point where she is on the verge of being an unreliable narrator - which I love! Like, is she crazy? Is she onto something? She is clearly drinking to much and this might just be spiraling out of control! Who knows?! Not her. Not me. Lol....

There are quite a few aspects of evil going on here. You have the case of the missing girl from high school, the case of the plastic company infecting the town water supply, "THE GAME", and how, if at all, they tie together. Old classmates come into play, one particular boy she used to swoon over who basically runs things at the plastic company. The leftover "mean girl" who pretends to play nice, the boy that grew up to be a better man than anyone expected.... and of course, her personal troubles with her dad. Like, she has a lot of shit going on. Ritter makes it so that even the reader isn't sure who trust, and there is a tug back and forth on all the characters and your level of trust in them. Everyone is so sketchy in some way, aside from her coworkers. Her best friend and the two interns are pretty great, and maybe could've used more time on the pages.

Everything doesn't start coming all together until the last like, 25% of the book. Then it's crunch time. Then shit gets crazy. I love every second of it. I love her unraveling, and then things becoming clear suddenly. The whole book just kept me glued to the pages.

So the only thing about this book that may make it more of a 4.5 for me as opposed to the full 5 stars is that I kind of question how all the pieces story fit together. Like, my brain keeps second guessing whether or not they makes sense as a whole puzzle, with each piece fit into place. But maybe I need to allow them to be slightly separate entities. But I love how it ended for Abby, on a very independent note.

I definitely recommend this book. I really hope it gets the audio book treatment, and that Krysten Ritter will voice it. I read it with her Jessica Jones voice in my head, I couldn't help myself. I would be happy to read this again via audio if she does that!

**ARC provided via Netgalley and Crown Publishing in exchange for an honest review!**
Profile Image for 8stitches 9lives.
2,787 reviews1,627 followers
January 7, 2018
It appears that I am in the minority having not heard of Krysten Ritter before encountering this book. This may have something to do with the fact that she is American and I am British and she features on American shows that I haven't watched before. I don't mind this as this usually bodes well and means I don't have any expectations that others who know of her may have. It puts it on the same footing as the other books I choose to read - I will read anything that appeals to me regardless of whether I know the author or not. The synopsis is key in making my decision... and here it is...

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.

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?

Firstly, let me just say that with this book Ritter shows that her talents don't just lie in acting - this is as well written and structured as any mystery/suspense novel. The writing is immersive and the action both fast-paced with some slower aspects that lurk in the back of your mind until the finale. The storyline has plenty of surprises and is dark and gritty with a menacing undertone that runs the whole way through. You may, like I did, guess some of what is going on but the way it unravelled still had some shocking moments that I didn't predict.

I admired the MC, Abby, a lot. She was able to eventually come to terms with her past in circumstances where it would be easier to just move on and leave it alone. Her courage and tenacity is a substantial aspect of the book for me. The more she discovers, the deeper the secrets run and this means Abby has no idea just who who or can't be trusted. This is a highly addictive read and I thoroughly enjoyed following Abby on her journey.

If Ritter happens to write more novels of this genre in future I would definitely read them.

I would like to thank Krysten Ritter, Random House - Cornerstone and NetGalley for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Blair.
1,770 reviews4,249 followers
October 14, 2017
I would say this is the best novel by an actor I've ever read, but I'm not actually sure I've ever read any other novels by actors. Either way, this is good stuff, not just some indulgent vanity project. Ritter's debut is a pacy legal thriller which has Abby Williams, a young lawyer, returning home to Barrens, Indiana, where she's plagued by memories of a long-lost friend and finds a powerful corporation covering up evidence of corruption. Let's say it's Gillian Flynn meets Erin Brockovich.

I couldn't help picturing Abby as Jessica Jones – perhaps because that's the only role I've seen Ritter play, but there are other similarities. Abby does a lot of ill-advised drinking and has a habit of making bad decisions; she's also driven and incredibly tenacious. The Barrens of her youth was a quintessential small town where everyone knew everyone's business. Bullied at school by a clique of girls and at home by her stern, religious father, Abby was relieved to get the hell out. Ten years later, she finds Barrens dominated by Optimal, a large company which employs most of the population and seems to have a finger in every pie. The firm she works for is out to prove Optimal have been polluting the local water supply. The locals, however, are fiercely resistant.

The book opens with a striking sequence in which a teenage girl collapses dramatically during mock elections. This turns out to be a scene from Abby's youth: in the last year of high school, her childhood best friend Kaycee was struck by a mystery illness which sparked a wave of hysterical copycats. Kaycee could be unspeakably cruel – she joined in the bullying, and Abby suspects she may even have killed the Williams' dog – but Abby can't shake off memories of her. Kaycee 'ran away' after leaving school and hasn't been seen since; her family and former friends seem oddly disinterested in tracking her down. Abby becomes increasingly convinced that while the other girls may have faked it, Kaycee's sickness was genuine, and Optimal were responsible – may even have killed her.

Bonfire packs in a lot of character background yet is still a compelling mystery. The subplot about Abby's father's illness is poignant; Ritter even finds a way to make use of the otherwise annoying love triangle between Abby and two local guys. (I also loved the way this was concluded.) The questions of a) Kaycee's disappearance and b) whatever Optimal's doing are both as gripping as each other. All in all, I was really impressed by this clever and captivating story.

I received an advance review copy of Bonfire from the publisher through NetGalley.

TinyLetter | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr
Profile Image for Paul.
303 reviews73 followers
June 18, 2017
thank you to netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book to review.

i requested this from Netgalley mainly from curiousity as i am a fan of Krysten Ritter's acting so wondered if she could also write.
turns out she can, i was pleasantly surprised at how well this novel was written. it is a multilayered story with recurring themes of family, bullying, enviromental concerns and memory. in other words for her debut Ritter went with a go big or go home gameplan and approach. and she handled much of it with aplomb and skill. my main critique os the MC isnt very likeable and in some places it seems a little heavy handed.( the majority isnt though it has some subtlety but the heavy handed parts annoyed mw enough to take a star or so off).

overall id rate this between 3 and 3.5 stars
Profile Image for Ash.
123 reviews134 followers
December 5, 2019
I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish this book, which should tell you everything you need to know.

This isn’t the sort of book I would have ever picked up of my own accord. I had never read a thriller before this one and didn’t expect to be a fan of the genre. Luckily, my mom gave this to me, and to my surprise, I was hooked from the first chapter. My mom has impeccable taste.

Bonfire stars Abby Williams, an environmental lawyer in Chicago who hails from the small town of Barrens, Indiana. Abby and I have very little in common, and yet I connected with her deeply and almost instantly. We both experienced bullying in our school years, and I loved how Bonfire demonstrates the way those childhood traumas can impact you for the rest of your life. When Abby returns to Barrens, it’s as though nothing has changed, and she feels herself getting sucked in to this place that holds so many terrible memories and that she’s tried for so long to escape.

It’s a good thing I fell so hard for Abby, because this is an intensely character-driven novel. We witness everything from the narrow, sometimes flawed lens of her perspective. I usually don’t prefer books written from in first person, but I think it was the right choice for Bonfire. I never knew any more than Abby knew, and as a result, the mystery unfurled gradually before me as she slowly worked to uncover the dark truth behind Optimal Plastics.

Because this is my first mystery or thriller, I can’t speak to the plot as someone with experience with the genres. I thought the book was well-paced and I sped through it from beginning to end. I wasn’t able to easily figure out what would happen next or how it would conclude. I enjoyed the environmental side of the story and the conflict residents of Barrens faced when the company that employs many of their friends and family and that has contributed to the community was suspected of poisoning their water supply with dangerous chemicals.

My only complaint about Bonfire is the ending. It felt rushed, slightly convoluted, and wrapped things up too neatly. It didn’t fit with the rest of the book, which was complex and messy in all the best and most interesting ways. Fortunately, a lukewarm ending isn’t enough to spoil a book that otherwise rocked my world, and I’m happy to say I still enjoyed Bonfire overall. It’s been so long since I’ve really immersed myself in a book, and Bonfire gave me just what I was looking for and rekindled my love of reading.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,342 reviews701 followers
December 13, 2017
“Bonfire” is a dark psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator. Abby Williams is our narrator/protagonist and she’s a high-powered Environmental lawyer who works in Chicago. She is from a small town in Indiana, where she immediately left after graduation. Her high school life was full of torment. There were mean girls who ran the school and made Abby’s life a living hell. Add to that, her Mom suffered from cancer and died while her father became a religious zealot.

The story begins with Abby coming back to her hometown to confront a business that she suspects is poisoning the water system. The business, Optimal, basically owns the town. Abby has difficulty getting the citizens to cooperate.

Meanwhile, Abby is reliving her high school torment. All the stuff she tried to bury is coming back to her. It doesn’t help that Abby has a bit of a drinking problem that clouds her memory and decision –making abilities. While in high school, one of the mean girls mysteriously disappeared and Abby thinks that her disappearance has to do with Optimal poisoning the water.

As with all thrillers, one cannot get too much into the plot without spoilers. All I’ll write is that I guessed a large part of what happened to Abby’s friend and what happened in high school. Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading it to the finish. It gets a bit gory at the end, but the event isn’t so distracting that I dislike the scene.

All in all, it’s a solid thriller for first time novelist Krysten Ritter. I’d read another one of her novels.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,050 followers
December 13, 2017
This is very readable but I felt some things were set up and not fully taken advantage of except for how they advanced the central mystery of what happened to Kaycee. I do like the idea of Erin Brokovich confronting the fallout of childhood bullying, and would read the next book by this author.

A few more questions in the spoiler tag:

Also, poetic license maybe, but there is no toll rode on I-70 in Missouri.

Thanks to the publisher for approving my request for access to this title via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Marialyce .
1,983 reviews716 followers
January 5, 2018
3 stars

Can we go home again, or maybe the question should be should we go home again? Abby Williams does just that, she goes home, but returns as an environmental lawyer digging into a possible case against a corporate giant company Optimal Plastics. She has been gone for ten years but remembers all the horrible things that had happened to her while growing up Barrens Indiana. She remembers the cruelty of her fellow students especially her former best friend Kaycee Williams. Kaycee had disappeared but the memories of all that had happened, the supposed feigned illnesses, the shaming of girls targeted as weak, the playing of The Game comes rushing back in foggy memories.

Abby, tries to unravel the connection between what happened ten years ago and now. How is Optimal, the savior of the town involved, and how will she get people to believe her now that she dredges up one conspiracy theory after another? Compounding all of this is the extremely tenuous relationship she has with her father. Abby's world seems to be crashing as she descends further and further into wanting to believe and trying to prove that what she feels is right. The two worlds that Abby experiences come to a conclusion that in reality was ever so expected.

This was at times a very confusing novel. It meandered through relationships and made sometimes tenuous connections. It seemed to that the the heroine of this tale always seemed to be in a drunken state wandering from one bar to another, drinking one drink after another. In this she lost her true voice as the main protagonist and seemed detrimental to all she was trying to convey. The author tries to make Abby a pathetic sad creature but in doing so she creates a character that is often one that dredges up little sympathy.

Thanks to NetGallery and Crown Publishing for providing an advanced copy for an unbiased review.
November 29, 2017
When ... Marvel heroes, books, and real life mix; readers get a dazzling result!! 😍📚

“It’s as if the rules to the past have been rewritten, and I’m still learning the game.”
- Abby Williams

* * *
“They’re all twisting my memories, making me doubt things I always counted on as true.”
- Abby Williams

* * *
“There are the people of the world who squeeze and the ones who suffocate.”
- Abby Williams

* * *
“I know now that there’s a hole inside me. A hole that can’t be patched or filled with files or paperwork or legal cases or new clothes or miles or happy hours or bartenders.
This was never about the water. It’s not even about Kaycee, not really.
It’s about me.”
- Abby Williams

* * *
* “One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret, never to be told.” *

* * *
“There’s evil in this world, Abby. You remember that. You look for it. You look so it can’t look for you.”
- Chestnut Williams

* * *
“I came back to bury the past, but instead the past is burying me.”
- Abby Williams

* * *
“Only the present is solid. The past is smoke.”
- Abby Williams

* * *
“The past is just a story we tell. And all stories depend on the ending”

#Marvel #JessicaJones #BadassAuthor
- Abby Williams
Profile Image for Imi.
378 reviews110 followers
November 11, 2017
Not great. Easy and quick to read, but honestly it felt flat right from the start. The plot is formulaic to the point that I saw the ending coming from a mile off along with all the expected "twists". I can deal with a straightforward mystery plot, however, if the characters are good. Unfortunately, all the characters, and the protagonist in particular, felt designed to move the plot forward. The worst part were the protagonist's two possible love interests. Nothing worse than a predictable, sickening sort-of love triangle. You can guess who is trustworthy and who is not without much work. I thought this was worth a go, but sadly feel I got taken in by another over-hyped thriller.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,033 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.