By Ekta R. Garg
October 7, 2020
Release date: September 8, 2020
Rated: Bookmark it! / 4 stars
A corporate retreat transforms into murder for a group of young techies high in the mountains. As they begin to question one another and the staff, tension runs high and the snow falls deep. Thriller author Ruth Ware settles in with excellent detail and a practiced hand in her latest murder mystery One by One.
In the exclusive French chalet called St. Antoine, host Erin and chef Danny are getting ready for another round of guests. This week they’ll be attending to the upper crust executives of Snoop, a London-based tech company that has made billions by giving members the ability to listen to music in real-time with one another. Regular people follow celebrities and one another, and the entire concept has made founders Topher St. Claire-Bridges and Eva van den Berg rich.
Erin gets all of this information from Danny. Before this week, she’d never even heard of the app. All she knows is that she has to make sure all the rooms are ready and the champagne bubbling when the Snoop team walks through the door.
She’s also keeping an eye on the weather. It’s January, and the French Alps are known to have heavy snowfalls and avalanches. More than anything, she hopes the Snoop execs will be able to spend their week soaked in booze and on their skis so she doesn’t have to fuss over them too much.
Yet Erin senses some sort of strain between the guests. Topher and Eva may be co-founders of the app, but it’s clear to Erin they’re not on board with one another. Some of the other execs, too, seem to have picked either Team Topher or Team Eva. The only one who stands undecided is Liz.
From the moment the Snoop team arrives, Erin notices that Liz doesn’t quite fit in anywhere. Soon enough it becomes clear that Liz is a former employee and a minority stakeholder in the company. She’s also anxious around everyone, although Erin can’t figure out why.
The drama from the rest of the Snoopers distracts Erin soon enough. A buyout of the company is on the table, and Topher and Eva are on opposites sides of the issue. One wants to go through with it; the other doesn’t. Tensions start to run high early into the trip, but that’s the least of their problems.
What starts as a typical ski run for the group ends with an avalanche and one of their own dead. Just as everyone starts to accept they’ve lost a member of the team, someone else dies. Inside the chalet. After the entire group is cut off from the rest of the world. Then another person ends up dead, and it becomes clear that someone in the chalet is not just staying there. They’re murdering people.
Suspicion drives the group apart and makes them unable to sleep or do much of anything else. With the power cut off and the temperatures dropping, Erin and the others will have to figure out what’s worse: dying from extreme cold or dying by murder. Both options are horrifying, yet at the rate everyone is going both seem inevitable.
Author Ruth Ware comes back with what she does best: a plot that twists and turns as unexpectedly as a ski run in a blizzard. In a book reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s work, Ware sets up what seems, on the surface, an airtight murder scene. Trapped by the avalanche and the elements, Erin, Liz, Topher, and all the others can only rely on one another. It makes sense, then, that the murderer is also one of the group even as the setting makes it impossible to believe.
Ware’s practiced hand with red herrings and misdirection will delight readers as they discover the answers to the questions that arise through the novel. While the identity of the killer might be obvious to more astute readers, Ware adds enough doubt to delay onfirmation of that identity. Mystery and thriller lovers, then, are in for a treat as they have no choice but sit back and let the story unfold at its own pace.
While an abundance of characters might make it a little harder to get close to some of the victims, Ware makes sure to let the narrative emphasize the importance of their deaths. Readers who love mysteries that show old-fashioned prowess with modern sensibilities will thoroughly enjoy this book. I recommend readers Bookmark One by One.