Snow is falling in the exclusive alpine ski resort of Saint Antoine, as the shareholders and directors of Snoop, the hottest new music app, gather for a make or break corporate retreat to decide the future of the company. At stake is a billion-dollar dot com buyout that could make them all millionaires, or leave some of them out in the cold.
The clock is ticking on the offer, and with the group irrevocably split, tensions are running high. When an avalanche cuts the chalet off from help, and one board member goes missing in the snow, the group is forced to ask – would someone resort to murder, to get what they want?
Ruth Ware has long been hailed as a modern day Agatha Christie and in her latest mystery-thriller, One by One, she shows herself to be more than worthy of the accolade! Set in a luxury chalet in the exclusive alpine ski resort of Saint Antoine, One by One is a story of corporate greed, personal betrayal, and good old fashioned sleuthing worthy of the Queen of Crime herself.
British tech start-up Snoop is the hottest music app around. Faced with the prospect of a make or break corporate buyout, company directors Topher and Eva decide to take the key stakeholders to a luxury alpine chalet for a weekend of crisis talks and R&R. Reluctantly accompanying them is Liz, former PA to the company and a minor shareholder owing to a chance offer made to Topher and Eva long ago. Looking after the group are chalet host Erin and chef Danny, both experts in catering for even the fussiest of guests and more the prepared to handle the whims of Snoop’s somewhat eclectic senior team. As the buyout talks commence, tensions rise and the weather worsens. And then the avalanche hits and the first body is found…
Ruth Ware is an absolute genius at building tension. As I said in my review of The Death of Mrs Westaway, twists and turns are her forte and there were more than a few unexpected surprises in One by One that had me turning the pages frantically!
Unlike in Mrs Westaway however, I didn’t feel that this complexity of plotting came at the expense of characterisation. Despite their being a relatively large cast, I really got a sense of who each of the characters were and what made them tick. The Snoopers are, for the most part, the kind of characters that you absolutely love to hate – wrapped up in their million-dollar world of private-school networks, old-boy investors, corporate lunches and executive dinners, they have little understanding of the realities of life. As soon as I read that one of the Snoop job titles was ‘Head of Cool’, I knew that I’d have a kind of grim satisfaction in watching their privileged worlds fall apart once the avalanche hit and reality came to bite.
Contrasting with these largely unlikable tech types are narrators Erin and Liz. Chalet girl Erin and her friend Danny, the chalet’s chef, are down-to-earth and practical, although Erin is hiding a dark secret behind her cheery facade. Former Snoop PA Liz has always felt like a fish out of water. Educated at the local comp and with a wardrobe more Primarni than Armani, Liz knows she’s only been invited to the chalet as a pawn in the corporate battle of wills taking place between Snoop founders Eva and Topher. But as with Erin, there’s more to shy and mousey Liz than meets the eye!
Ruth Ware takes time to establish her cast and to set up the premise of Snoop and the corporate buyout, as well as to hint at some of the complexities behind the relationships of the key cast. These framing chapters can sometimes be tedious in a thriller but Ware does an excellent job of balancing the need for exposition with a mounting sense of unease and tension, using small incidents to develop the characters and show that all is not well beneath the glossy exterior of Snoop.
When the avalanche hits, the tension really ramps up a notch, with the characters suddenly thrown into an extreme situation made only more dangerous by the bodies that suddenly start appearing. As with Christie’s And Then There Were None, it becomes clear that someone in the chalet is a murderer. The guests seem to be being picked off one by one, with deliberate care and menace. But why? Answering that question, and discovering the identity of the murderer, will require the remaining chalet guests, along with Erin and Danny, to break out of their comfort zones, trust each other, and face some dark realities about their pasts.
As you can hopefully tell from my review, I really enjoyed One by One. Combining a good old-fashioned murder mystery (remote location, limited number of suspects, everyone has something to hide) with some thrilling set-pieces and an exceptional explosion of an ending, One by One shows Ruth Ware to be at the top of her game and is sure to delight both mystery and thriller fans this winter. If you’re looking for a page-turning read to curl up with on a cold evening, you’d do a lot worse than picking this one up!
If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green Bookshop, Sam Read Booksellers, Book-ish, Scarthin Books, and Berts Books.
My thanks go to the publisher and to NetGalley UK for providing an ecopy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.