This is my ‘Recommended by a magazine’ book. I can’t remember which magazine it was, but I think it was Marie Claire.
A bit of background, for those who don’t know. Krysten Ritter is perhaps better known as an actress, appearing in the much funnier than it should be TV show “Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23” alongside Dawson from Dawson’s Creek, Gia in Veronica Mars and most recently, everyone’s favourite angsty whisky drinkin’ leather jacket wearin’ superhero, Jessica Jones.
“Bonfire’ is her debut novel, pitched as a thriller about a young woman’s past coming back to haunt her. Total honesty – books like this aren’t usually my thing. I have a surprisingly low appetite for dead bodies, assault and violence in general. Superhero wham, bam and some good gunfights are all good, but I think there’s so much going on at the moment, I could spend my time reading something uplifting and nice, basically.
I was interested though, I like Ritter’s acting and she’s had an interesting career so far, albeit slightly typecast as the sultry femme fatale with a lean towards nihilism.
The lead character, Abby Williams, is coming back home after decades away, hot on the trail of a big legal case against an evil corporate company who may or may not be harming the inhabitants of the small town she comes from. Demons of all kinds pop up; in the form of her abusive bully father who is old and succumbing to the ravages of age pretty gracelessly, old classmates and will they/won’t they old flames.
During the course of running down the leads in the case, Abby finds herself being drawn deeper in and remembering the girl who vanished, all those years ago…
So basically, it’s very pulpy and all over the place in tone. It lurches from love story to crime thriller and into human interest without really deepening the characters. I was frustrated with it because it wasn’t written very well, which made it a bit clunky to read, but also because I wanted to know more about Abby’s big city lawyer team and how they fitted (or didn’t) in within the town. I wanted the focus to be on the bad water but it ended up being on the weird grooming plot that pops up at the end with no resolution, really. I didn’t learn anything more about Abby and frankly, I didn’t really want to.
The other thing I struggled with is not imagining Ritter as Jessica Jones in the main role. Abby wears boots and leather and she drinks too much. She’s also had a pretty rough life and spends much of her day moping about and thinking about how her life has been pretty rough.
I might not read her next book, if there is one – you might enjoy it as a holiday read or perhaps cosied up with a hot chocolate in front of the fire.