... the most brazenly Christie-ish of all [Ware's] novels ... Ware’s story follows the snow tracks of Dame Agatha’s classic but cunningly swerves off-road at crucial moments with the aid of techie updates ... As in Christie’s mysteries, part of the great pleasure of reading One by One lies in rereading key passages and realizing how dim one was (as a reader) the first time round. Much of the crucial information is out in the open, right there on the page in dialogue and description, but Ware expertly scatters red herrings galore so that even the most alert reader becomes diverted into false deductions and dead ends ... Like Christie, Ware prefers to have her killings transpire 'offstage,' making One by One that increasingly rare literary achievement: a non-grisly thriller. The final section, where the last intended victim is locked in a ghastly battle of wits and endurance with the unmasked killer, has to be one of the most ingeniously extended plot climaxes in the suspense canon. I don’t know how Ruth Ware manages to keep up her pace of writing such fine and distinctive suspense novels every year (even Christie needed to take a break every so often); but, on behalf of suspense lovers everywhere, may I say that I’m grateful she has turned out to be a marathoner, rather than a sprinter.
This one is especially timely, given that the terror of isolation is at its heart ... This is And Then There Were None rendered for the twenty-first century, and David Baldacci is spot-on in calling Ware 'The Agatha Christie of our generation' ... Ware is one of the hottest traditional-mystery writers at the moment, and her sure-to-be-heavily-marketed latest will only turn up the heat.
Ware manages to make a retreat in a chalet in the wide-open French Alps feel claustrophobic, nerve-wracking and deadly ... The author’s choice of telling the story in dueling narratives enhances the steadily escalating pace of the book ... With one a member of the group and the other a casual observer, the reader is privy to more than just one character’s motives and observations. But when it comes to whodunits, giving too much away lessens the impact ... As always, Ware is effective at not just manipulating her characters, but also their environment, with a simplicity that belies its effectiveness. There are no outlandish scenarios or truly out-of-the-ordinary circumstances that render the plot unbelievable. Reader can picture themselves in a similar situation, and that adds to the suspense ... another solid thriller from Ware. And with all good thrillers, the crux comes down to the one thing we can never control: another person’s motives and intentions. And isn’t that the most frightening realization of all?
Unfortunately, while the set-up hooked me right away, the execution is disappointing. I liked it, but I wasn’t thrilled ... suffers from a few problems right from the start. Told exclusively via chapters that alternate between Erin’s and Liz’s perspectives, we never really get to know the secondary characters ... The set-up works; unfortunately, despite the atmospheric and creepy setting, the limited PoV forces readers to guess who these people really are, and why – aside from the buy-out offer – they might want to kill each other ... Ware gets the pacing right...She ramps up the tension with each new dead body (there are three in as many days), and there’s a palpable sense of dread as those remaining wonder who might be next. Unfortunately, we don’t really know any of these people, so I never formed an emotional attachment to any of them ... Ware relies on surprise character revelations and convenient plot devices to explain the murder spree. Look, I like a killer surprise (ha!), but when the author deliberately games the story so there’s no possible way readers can guess the villain, it isn’t clever. Or fair. A climatic, breathless ski chase sequence near the end nearly redeems the novel, but loose editing (the killer breaks their collarbone in a crash, gets up and keeps skiing as if nothing happened), and an abrupt, awkward ending spoils the thrill ... Aside from my complaints about the killer and the underdeveloped cast, One by One suffers from one too many plot holes, and an ending that never seems to end. Things happen in the last third that we’re told couldn’t happen earlier in the story, people disappear and no one really seems to care, the story goes on too long, and our narrators never really grew on me. Although Ware cleverly blurs the line between our traditional sense of good vs. evil, I just wasn’t invested enough in these characters enough to care overmuch ... boasts a clever set-up, but the execution failed to thrill this reader. Recommended with reservations.
Ware does what she does best: Gives us a familiar locked-door mystery setup and lets the tension and suspicion marinate until they reach fever pitch. Another win for Ware and her adaptations of classic mystery traditions ... The solution is maddeningly simple but the construction, simply masterful.
Liz and Erin share the narrative, which Ware rapidly cycles to accelerate pace and amplify suspense. A somewhat contrived denouement does little to diminish the thrill of this claustrophobic, adrenaline-fueled cat-and-mouse game. Agatha Christie fans take note.