One by One

I’m always on the lookout for mystery writers whose books are as consistently absorbing and well-written as Ruth Rendell’s, but mostly I don’t have much luck finding them. Ruth Ware had been on my radar for a while as someone to try and when I saw that her latest book is like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, but in the snow, well, I had to give it a try.

In this case, the isolated gathering is not one of strangers but of the founders and staff of a music-based social media platform called Snoop. The story is told in alternating chapters by Liz, a former Snoop employee who has an interest in the company’s future and Erin, one of the two attendants at the French Alpine chalet where Snoop is having its retreat. And then, one by one, characters go missing and die until the killer is revealed.

I found the book reasonably entertaining, in much the same way a mid-level 90s movie thriller is entertaining. It’s not particularly deep (although I think at times it’s trying to be), the characters are mostly really broad, the story is sometimes silly, but it’s fun enough watching the events unfold. There’s a point toward the end, in fact, that is extremely tense, with a particularly good jump scare, something I don’t think I’ve seen executed so well in writing. For the most part, the writing is functional, and the plot builds nicely, although the ending is drawn out way too much. I was done with the book about 30 pages before it ended. This is, I think, because I didn’t care about the remaining characters enough to want a lengthy denouement about what happens to them all.

As for the mystery, I find it hard to assess. I figured out the killer’s identity pretty early, when I was less of a fourth of the way into the book. I personally thought it was extremely obvious, so obvious that I half expected an additional twist toward the end. I’m not the sort of mystery reader who always guesses the killer, but I get it right often enough that I don’t hold it against a book when I’m not surprised. If anything, I appreciate it when an author does as Ware does here and provides all the information needed to solve the mystery, instead of holding back the most important clue. Because Ware plays fair, I expect experienced mystery readers won’t be very surprised at the killer, even if they don’t consciously figure it out. But I also think readers new to the genre will have their minds blown.

Overall, though, I wasn’t particularly blown away about this book. It was fine, and I’m not sorry I read it, but I don’t know that I’ll be running out to try more of Ware’s books.

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6 Responses to One by One

  1. Rohan Maitzen says:

    I haven’t read any of Ware’s books though I have eyed them more than once: it doesn’t sound as if they are top notch examples of their kind.

  2. This is kind of the impression I’ve picked up about Ruth Ware along the course of her career, though I can’t exactly put my finger on where I got that impression. As a not-very-avid mystery reader in the first place, I’ve never felt compelled to pick up one of hers.

    • Teresa says:

      I think that’s reasonable. There was nothing here that made me think her books would appeal to people who don’t generally enjoy mysteries.

  3. If you are ever inclined to pick up one of her books again, I’d go with The Death of Mrs. Westaway – it’s much more of a Gothic style mystery than her others.

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