By Ruth Ware one by one


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One by one, one by one,

Ruth Ware Ruth Ware

(Secker’s Harvill, £ 12.99)

For the creeping fear and anxiety that builds in eerie, lonely areas, RUTH Ware has a knack. Set in remote forests, secluded country homes, and claustrophobic cruise ship cabins, her riveting thrillers are. It is a recipe for winning.

Her 2019 book, The Turn Of The Key, about a nanny living with four children, was a well-received update of Henry James’ 1898 gothic suspense and horror novella, The Turn Of The Screw, aimed at a contemporary audience. The new novel by Ware, One By One, is a deftly written homage to the classic murder mystery of Agatha Christie And Then There Were None, continuing in that vein.

A chilling news story opens the book: a lethal landslide, a string of gruesome killings, and the authorities suspected of failing to act earlier. Ware pulls the reader into a glamorous world that glitters with danger, as has become her modus operandi. One By One is for you if you like seeing self-important hipsters get killed.

Things get off to a traditionally idyllic start when an eclectic group of guests arrive for their corporate retreat at a trendy Alpine chalet in the exclusive French ski resort of Saint Antoine.

They are the creators, owners and administrators of the Snoop social media music app, a cross between Facebook and Spotify, which allows individuals to listen to the same songs as the other users they “snooping” on.

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“boss of beans,”bean boss,”boss nerd,”boss nerd,”friend czar,”friend czar,”boss of cool,”cool boss,”law enforcement officer”law enforcement officer (a tongue-in-cheek reference to some well-known tech startups).

The reason for their meeting is to determine whether to go ahead with an acquisition of a billion-dollar dot-com that could make them wealthy, but not without any trade-offs. With the ticking of the bid clock and the community at odds on what to do, tensions are growing.

Co-founders Topher St. Clair-Bridges and Eva van den Berg form two opposing camps, each with entirely different visions for the future of the company. Oddly enough, the squad will take to the ski slopes to let off steam. Not everybody is making a treacherous black run back from an ill-advised attempt to ski. Moments later, an avalanche strikes their cabin. Then, one by one, the group’s members are killed.

As the weather plummets, mobile phone reception decreases, food starts to decline, and mountain rescue fails to arrive, their picturesque, snowy escape turns from a welcome refuge into an oppressive jail. Things start to crumble when separate characters set out to find aid.

From two viewpoints, Ware tells the story. One is the chalet girl Erin, whose cool, laid-back demeanor masks a murky past, and the other is Liz, a former employee of Snoop’s who never fit into the gang’s effortlessly cool and wealthy background but finds herself with a small but crucial stake in the company as a pawn in the takeover bid.

A novel’s resonance also relies on the time and location in which it is absorbed by a reader. When we all live under the ever-present threat of lockout, it proves oddly uplifting to escape into another kind of suffocating loneliness and fear.

Cat Cubie, the TV host, tells us about her beloved Scottish lake.

One By One is a galloping lecture, full of dark mysteries and everything you can hope for in a crime novel and psychological thriller.

The convoluted plot also leaves you wondering as to who will survive and who will reach an unhappy end, even though you guess the identity of the murderer early on. You will be left wondering at the climax of a wild, fast-paced cat-and-mouse chase through the snow.


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