The blurb for One By One declares Ruth Ware to be the true heir to Christie’s crown, and there’s a lot in that, if you consider that we have here a mystery involving a group of people locked in together and being picked off one by one. But Agatha Christie’s groups don’t generally include smart-arses like Topher St Clair-Bridges, CEO of snoop:
Hey. We’re snoop. Come, meet us, message us, snoop on us – whatever. We’re pretty cool.
or the very Zen Tiger-Blue Esposito, head of cool, or friends tsar Miranda Khan – Between savouring Guatemalan carbonic maceration and surfing Net-a-Porter, she’s snoop’s smile to the world.
This extraordinarily self-satisfied and pretentious group arrives at the up-market resort of Perce Neige in the French Alps where Danny the chef and Erin the everything-else provide food and accommodation worthy of the elite – and almost immediately one goes missing and in short order two more are killed. This seems to have something to do with a contentious take-over bid for the company that will make some people rich and leave others out of a job. All of this is complicated by an avalanche that cuts them off entirely from the outside world.
Ware reminded me of Agatha in another way: the success of the murder depends on a precise series of events, but the murderer couldn’t possibly have known they would happen as they do. How on earth did the murderer know in advance what choices each person was going to make when they went skiing the first day – what order they would come up in the ski lift, what run they would choose, what they would be wearing?
Not that I really minded – Ruth Ware is streets ahead of Agatha in characterisation, atmosphere and the creation of suspense, and even when, especially when, I knew who the murderer was, she had me on the edge of my seat. The last section is a tour-de-force, involving a terrifying chase on skis down a treacherous route in the dark. What a great film it would make.
Recmmended for a nail-biting read beside a roaring fire.