Book Title: House On Fire
Author: Bonnie Kistler
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
Pub Date: 03/12/2019
3 1/2 STARS ★★★1/2
In the bestselling tradition of Jodi Picoult and Celeste Ng, a tightly wound and suspenseful novel about a blended family in crisis after a drunk driving accident leaves the daughter of one parent dead—and the son of the other parent charged with manslaughter.
Divorce lawyer Leigh Huyett knows all too well that most second marriages are doomed to fail. But five years in, she and Pete Conley have a perfectly blended family of her children and his. To celebrate their anniversary, they grab some precious moments of alone time and leave Pete’s son Kip, a high school senior, in charge of Leigh’s fourteen-year-old daughter Chrissy at their home.
Driving back on a rainy Friday night, their cell phones start ringing. After a raucous party celebrating his college acceptance to Duke and his upcoming birthday, Kip was arrested for drunk driving after his truck crashed into a tree. And he wasn’t alone—Chrissy was with him.
Twelve hours later, Chrissy is dead and Kip is charged with manslaughter.
Kip has always been a notorious troublemaker, but he’s also a star student with a dazzling future ahead of him. At first, Leigh does her best to rally behind Pete and help Kip through his ordeal. Until he changes his story, and claims that he wasn’t driving after all—Chrissy was, and he swears there is a witness.
Leigh is stunned that he would lie about such a thing, while Pete clutches onto the story as the last, best hope to save his son, throwing his energy and money into finding this elusive witness. As they hurtle toward Kip’s trial date, husband and wife are torn between loyalty to their children and to each other, while the mystery of what really happened that night intensifies.
This richly conceived and tightly plotted psychological exploration of family and tragedy will have you racing toward its shocking and thought-provoking conclusion.
House On Fire is former trial attorney Bonnie Kistler’s debut novel that explores tragedy in a blended family.
Leigh Huyett and Pete Conley are happily married and have blended their children from previous marriages. Everything seems to be going well until there is a car accident involving Pete’s son, Kip, and Leigh’s daughter, Chrissy. Following the accident, Kip is arrested for drunk driving and just when their family believes that things cannot get worse – Chrissy dies. Now the family not only has to mourn the loss of Chrissy but they find out that Kip will be charged with manslaughter.
The catch…Kip claims he wasn’t driving. Chrissy was.
Sounds good, right? I will admit that I enjoyed learning about this integrated family and couldn’t begin to imagine what I would do in a situation such as this. Leigh and Pete both find themselves with unfathomable circumstances. Leigh has lost her daughter and now her step-son is claiming the accident was her daughter’s fault. Pete has to chose between his own child and his wife. I do not know what I would do if I were them.
Bonnie Kistler did a great job with the main storyline but along the way there are multiple storylines that are woven throughout and I felt that they overcrowded the narrative. I found distracting and unnecessary. I also felt that more of the narrative should have involved Kip. It was unclear whether we were supposed to sympathize with Kip or dislike him.
Overall, I found the concept interesting but certain storylines could have been removed to make it much shorter and in turn, more enjoyable.
Thank you to Atria Books for gifting me a free copy in exchange for an honest review!