Release date: September 1, 2020
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ (6/10)
SPOILER-FREE REVIEW: One by One is the newest thriller by bestselling author Ruth Ware; it’s set to be released September 8th, 2020 by Scout Press. Ware is the author of hits The Turn of the Key, The Woman in Cabin 10, The Lying Game, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, and In a Dark, Dark Wood. The tagline for her newest reads, “Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?”
PLOT RUNDOWN/BASICS: Sigh. This book is enough to make me rethink my strict “four-paragraph, uniquely-written summary” rule. Here we go:
St. Antoine, an exclusive French ski resort, is the destination for the incredibly successful social media company Snoop’s corporate getaway. The company’s two co-founders, accountant, software programmer, lawyer, social media specialist, app designer, and lawyer have trekked up to an incredibly remote chalet in the mountains for a set of meetings…and they’ve invited along the only other shareholder, former employee Liz, to their mysterious retreat.
The company’s employees – minus Liz, the ex – are all somewhat entitled brats…which soon becomes apparent to chalet employees Danny (the cook) and Erin (the cleaner/host). Why? Because they’re worth many millions if a rumored buyout goes through – a buyout that not all of them are eager to consider, and which hinges on Liz’s decision – and also because this is a book where they have to die off one-by-one (title alert!), so you can’t like them too much.
People will compare it to Agatha Christie; please ignore them. I’ve read both books now, and neither of them are Christie-like, but they suffice for 2020 popular mystery/thriller books.”
Soon enough (spoiler-but-not-really alert), they begin to die off (or mysteriously disappear), one by one. Stuff happens. Truths come out. People doubt literally everything they see, and every single person around them. Accusations are hurled. Snow is hurled, by the mountains themselves in the form of an avalanche. Power goes out, because why not? Also, they are stranded, so how can they call for help? (Spoiler-but-not-really alert: they can’t.)
Not everyone dies. We learn the truth, which is not a twist, but is also not the complex explanation you probably thought it was. There’s an ending. Lessons are learned, probably. (I DID finish the book, I promise.)
MY THOUGHTS: Gotta start this with a FULL DISCLOSURE: I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Ruth Ware. Or, at least, a like/dislike one…my feelings aren’t really a strong hate as much as they are a big “meh.”
You may have seen this mentioned in my previous posts, but…I’ve read three of her five previous novels (The Woman in Cabin 10, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, and In a Dark, Dark Wood). I read 100 pages of The Turn of the Key last summer – it came in two of my book subscription boxes, so I was surrounded by copies – and realized I couldn’t care less what happened, so I put it down and never picked it back up. I’ve tried to read The Lying Game on three(!!!) separate occasions, and cannot get more than 3 chapters in before I’m so bored I can’t keep going. And despite finishing The Woman in Cabin 10, the intro to the book was so poorly written that I was incredulous that people were raving about it; I only finished it because everyone insisted it was great, and I was a tad bit disgusted with myself afterward. (Please, if you haven’t read that one yet…don’t bother. Leave it on the discount table and walk away quickly. You are welcome.)
Having said that, I actually enjoyed The Death of Mrs. Westaway, and I appreciated the atmosphere and gloominess of In a Dark, Dark Wood – but I did see the endings coming super-early in both books. I finished those mainly to see if I was right, and because the characters (and the situations they found themselves in) were entertaining enough to keep me reading despite knowing what was likely coming.
So. One by One. This novel is vaguely similar to Shari Lapena’s An Unwanted Guest, which involves a remote cabin/chalet, a treacherous snowstorm/avalanche, and a murderer picking guests off one by one. (Get the title now? Ha ha.) People will compare it to Agatha Christie; please ignore them. I’ve read both books now, and neither of them are Christie-like, but they suffice for 2020 popular mystery/thriller books.
Did I see the ending coming? Yes – this is not a twisty novel, folks. If you think too deeply about it, you will likely be wrong. Use the KISS factor – Keep It Simple, Stupid (according to my past English teachers…? Hopefully this is universal?). If you’re like me, you’re reading more to see how the story unfolds, and who is murdered next, and why precisely you think they were the next victim. And while the motives aren’t completely crystal clear, and you can’t precisely predict each new move by the killer, you may genuinely not care. (Just me? No…?)
WHAT I LIKED: (If you’re incredibly perceptive, you’ll realize this section only pops up in less-than-stellar reviews. Because A) there’s usually always something good/enjoyable, B) not everyone has the same taste as me and some truly enjoy all of Ware’s novels, and C) it reminds me to try to be nice.)
On my scale of “DNF” to “It was okay” for Ware novels, I would firmly place One by One on the “It was okay” end of the scale. I enjoyed reading about the location, and I do always appreciate a good classic whodunit where people are murdered one by one (I keep doing this). I particularly enjoyed the character of Erin, and the switching of perspectives between her and Liz with every chapter was mostly seamless and served the story well.
Stuff happens. Truths come out. People doubt literally everything they see, and every single person around them. Accusations are hurled. Snow is hurled, by the mountains themselves in the form of an avalanche.”
Most of the characters are unlikable because they genuinely have to be in this kind of story, and with this kind of plot…but Danny was my personal favorite, and I would want to be his friend in real life. And kudos to Ware for giving us the amusing biographies of each of the Snoop employees at the beginning of the novel; because of this, the readers could keep up with the group from the very beginning, and we knew what we were in for with this clash of personalities with murderous personal conflicts, in a stranded place, and in dire circumstances.
Unlike The Woman in Cabin 10, I personally found this one worth finishing – despite the lack of an actual twist, and even when you can kinda sorta see what would happen ahead of time. I found Erin likable enough to want to know how her story ended, and while the motives and uncovered truths were lackluster (or vaguely unrealistic?) at best (IMHO), I enjoyed fitting the final pieces into the puzzle. But if you find yourself putting it down and considering not finishing it? I wouldn’t bat an eye, or blame you one bit…life is too short to read books you don’t enjoy. (And you can DM me if you just want to confirm the ending. I’ll tell you.)