British author Ruth Ware has been called “The Agatha Christie of our generation,” and has written several novels that have all seemingly gone on to be incredibly popular bestsellers. There’s no doubt she’s one of today’s most popular and most successful authors, as a result. That said, I’ve always found her to be hit or miss for whatever reason. I’ve now read half of her books, and own one more that I’ve yet to get to, which just so happens to be the one that everyone says is her best. It’s called ‘In a Dark, Dark Wood,’ and was her debut. I picked it up for a quarter while at the local hospital, but still haven’t gotten around to reading it despite wanting to.
The first Ruth Ware novel I read was The Woman in Cabin 10, and it hooked me from the beginning and didn’t let go. The main character was a smart and strong female lead, who had a lot of depth and a good personality. She didn’t do dumb things, was interesting and ended up being the protagonist of a rather good and memorable book. It’s something I may even read again someday.
After that high, I went on to read ‘The Turn of the Key,’ which had a very promising and intriguing premise. It was the story of a young woman who took up a nanny job in a remote part of Europe, and quickly discovered that something was amiss. Perhaps my expectations were a bit too high going into this one because, while I enjoyed it, I didn’t think it was great by any means. Some seem to have absolutely loved it, but I personally thought that it was solid but a tad underwhelming. Then again, maybe I’d expected too much from it after liking The Woman in Cabin 10 so much, and even falling for the hype surrounding this particular novel.
Now, just over a year later, I was sent a copy of Ruth’s newest novel, One by One. It came out on the 8th of September, but I was a bit late getting to it due to being in the middle of other books when it somewhat unexpectedly arrived. I started reading it after finishing the others, though, and have since completed it within the span of about a week. Now, I’m here to share my thoughts.
Truth be told, One by One was another book that intrigued me more than I enjoyed it. That’s not to say it’s bad, or that it’s something to avoid. It’s a solid read, but it’s one that is sadly too formulaic and predictable. There’s little in the way of originality, which is unfortunate.
This particular fictional narrative tells the story of a group of people who become stranded in a fancy chalet in the French mountains. An unexpected avalanche destroys part of the building and hems them in, and an injury to one of the key members of said group makes things even more difficult. All the while, people keep dying, one-by-one.
Things begin as a young, twenty-something named Erin cleans the idyllic chalet she works in, in preparation of the arrival of a new set of guests. She and chef Danny live there full-time, and guests cycle in on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This time around, it’s several coworkers who make up the ownership, management, finance and legal portions of a new, ever popular app called Snoop. As its name suggests, this particular smartphone app allows you to stalk people — including friends, family and celebrities — over the Internet. The catch is that you can only see what they’re listening to, although you can also choose to listen in and hear the same music. This means that fans can listen to the same music as their favourite celebrities, creating a sense of intimacy.
Snoop just so happens to be run by some of the most annoying characters ever to grace a thriller novel. They’re so posh and parodied that they’re almost hard to believe, and this almost turned me off from reading the rest of the novel. I say almost because I’m not one to drop a book unless I absolutely hate it, and because I wanted to read it all before writing a review. A review that I owed.
The group is headed by co-creators and co-CEOs, Topher and Eva, both of whom believe that they’re better than everyone else and that their poo doesn’t reek. Then there’s quirky Tiger Blue, innocent Ani, good looking Rik, incredibly introverted but intelligent Elliot and gruff Carl. Last, but not least, is Liz; a former employee who was only invited because she holds a two percent ownership in the company. She’s important, because this particular week-long trip was organized in order to not just grow as a company, but to discuss a potential buyout as well. One that would put hundreds of millions of dollars into the CEOs’ pockets, and at least ten or twelve million into all of the other owners’ accounts.
As you may have already realized, the Snoop management team isn’t on the same wavelength when it comes to what they want for the company. Topher and his posse (which includes his best friend Elliot) want to keep the company and hope for more funding, although it’s not guaranteed. Meanwhile, Eva and her supporters want to accept the buy out and become very rich, so that they can move on with their lives and maybe never work again. There’s comfort in the sure thing, after all, especially when it means tons of money.
Meek Liz is the deciding vote. If she goes with Topher, he’ll be able to keep the company in his name. Meanwhile, if she votes with Eva — who’s just as pushy as her co-CEO — the buyout will go through. As such, both do their best to earn her allegiance during the vacation.
After one of the members goes missing during the first morning of skiing, things quickly take a turn for the worst. People start dying, one-by-one, and there’s little evidence as to who the killer is. Throw in an avalanche that kills the power and isolates the group, and you have a recipe for disaster and the potential for a really good murder-mystery/thriller.
Although One by One started off kind of poorly, it got better as it went along, and I was glad that I stuck with it. That said, it didn’t wow me in any way. Yes, this was a decent and somewhat entertaining read, but there was nothing original about it. The twist wasn’t surprising, the characters were often annoying, and the ending was pretty predictable. I did, however, like the character of Erin, who’s one of the two narrators. Liz is the other.
The writing is quite solid, though, as one would expect. This was an unfinished and not fully corrected advanced readers copy, so there were some errors, but nothing major. These surely won’t be in the final product, which can be purchased now if you’re interested.
There were some words that I didn’t particularly understand, but that’s mostly because they were British slang terms. That, or European words that describe certain pieces of skiing clothing and equipment. This isn’t abnormal when I read books by British authors, of which I read quite a few.
At the end of the day, Ruth Ware’s One by One is a middling affair. It starts off poorly, but it gets better as it goes along, although it admittedly drags at the end. It’s also too predictable, and doesn’t bring anything original to the table. We’ve read and watched these stories play out numerous times, and the expected elements are all here. Nothing stands out as being unique or memorable, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad read.
This review is based on a copy of the book that we were provided with.