Wednesday, September 9, 2020

One by One

One by One by Ruth Ware
Gallery/Scout Press: 9/8/20
review copy; 384 pages

One by One by Ruth Ware is a highly recommended psychological thriller set at a snow-covered retreat.

The social media company Snoop is holding a corporate retreat for nine, shareholders and team members, at a luxurious, rustic ski chalet in the French Alps. The weather is looking ominous and it looks like they will be snowed in, but there is a full-service chef, Danny, and housekeeper, Erin, on site so they will be taken care of even if skiing is not an option. Erin and Danny can tell immediately that the atmosphere is tense. The company is being offered a major buyout. Co-founders of Snoop, Topher and Eva, are on opposites sides. Other shareholders fall into both sides of the decision. The deciding vote will be from Liz. She no longer works there but has a small share of the stocks. The night they arrive, Eva ups the ante and adds an unplanned presentation to the agenda, pushing for the buyout.

The next day skiing is only possible in the morning, so everyone hits the slopes. When they return, one person is missing and the storm intensifies. Then an avalanche damages the building and leaves the group cut off from the outside world. It becomes clear that help is not going to arrive soon and the group must wait for help as the members dwindle one by one. This is a riveting, updated version of And Then There Were None.

Chapters alternate between the different points-of-view of Erin and Liz. As the housekeeper/server, Erin is able to observe and listen to the guests. She has some insight into what is going on and how the others are all reacting to it. Liz is a very socially awkward person who no longer works there, but has 2 shares of the company and will be the deciding vote to sell or not. The other guests are quite frankly a group of insufferable, wealthy, entitled bores who are taking sides and planning their next moves. Their characters are slowly developed while the action unfolds. This is a classic tension filled waiting game where first one guest disappears and then another dies and then. You'll be following it closely for clues and hints on who will be next and who is responsible.

The writing is great in this adaptation and I felt the tension increasing incrementally with each chapter and each new revelation or suspicion. Ware does a wonderful job setting up the plot and guiding us through the mystery. There is a whole roomful of characters, but you can get them sorted out along the way. The plot moved along quickly once the set up was over and I was glued to the pages from start to finish. There were a few missteps, but nothing major that will detract from your enjoyment of the narrative.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Gallery/Scout Press.

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