Review: House on Fire by Bonnie Kistler


Release date: March 12, 2019

Publisher: Atria

Genre: Fiction


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. 


Full disclosure here, this is labeled as a mystery/thriller on Goodreads and I wholeheartedly disagree with that, enough so that I would say it’s fiction and leave if at that. I feel like expectations are super important to me as a reader and this is really not a thriller whatsoever. I’m actually not even sure what it is to be totally honest, so there’s that too. Is there a mystery? Sure I suppose so but I mean that in the loosest sense of the word. Is it a thriller by any means? Nope, not at all. Is it really an examination of a family on the brink? Yes, that’s the most accurate explanation that I can come up with.

I enjoyed the dynamics of this family that were explored and couldn’t even imagine being in the same situation myself, losing a child is unfathomable but having your other child be at fault? Horrific, and seeing Pete and Leigh deal with the aftermath was fascinating and heartbreaking. How do you chose between your child and your wife? You don’t, it’s an impossible dilemma.

The author did a great job bringing the main storyline to life, but there were several side plots as well that made it sorta messy for me. I just don’t think it any added value to the story, in fact it was distracting for me. Just unnecessary and made the book longer than it needed to be. Overall an interesting book that mostly worked for me in the end, well drawn characters and solid writing, definitely enough to make me pick up her next book but it needed to be scaled back a little for me.

Overall rating: 3/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

3 thoughts on “Review: House on Fire by Bonnie Kistler

  1. Meag's Book Nook says:

    I agree with your review! Also, I was a little disappointed with Kip’s storyline. IMO, it should have been a little more about him but it wasn’t and most of the pieces he was in didn’t provide any substance to the story.

    Liked by 1 person

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