Title: One by One
Author: Chris Carter
Publication date: 15 August 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: 512 pages
Age group: Adult
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | The Book Depository
In a nutshell
The most terrifying TV show ever is about to begin…
It’s an ordinary day on the job for Detective Robert Hunter of the LAPD Robbery Homicide Division, when out of the blue comes a phone call. A voice instructs him to log on to a certain URL. Intrigued, Hunter does so, only to find live footage of a hostage bound to a chair in a large tank. The caller then presents him with a grim choice: the hostage will either be drowned or burned alive, and Hunter must choose. Hunter votes for neither, but the caller insists: either Hunter decides or he will. Either way, the hostage will die. Hunter refuses to be drawn, so the caller suggests ‘burned alive’. Desperate, Robert Hunter requests ‘drowned’ as the less brutal option. And before his eyes the tank begins to fill…
So begins Detective Hunter’s most horrifying case yet. Along with his partner Garcia they are forced to watch as victim after victim is plucked, seemingly at random, and placed before a webcam, their final moments broadcast live on the internet, the viewing public offered the chance to vote on the method of death. You watch, you vote, they die.
This, my dear friends, is how you write an exceptional, cold-blooded thriller readers won’t be able to put down. I’ve only read one of Carter’s previous books so far but it instantly became one of my favourite books this year and put Chris Carter right on top of my ‘favourite crime writers’ list. But even though I knew One by One would be just as brilliant as The Night Stalker (and I’m sure most of his previous books) was, I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to top that level and write something even more intense, more twisted. Well, he did. One by One is no doubt one of the scariest books I’ve ever read and one I’m not likely to forget anytime soon.
I suppose one of the things that makes it so terrifying is that Hunter’s team is dealing with an incredibly smart killer this time. You know, Hannibal Lecter and Jigsaw smart. Someone who is always one step ahead of you and knows how you would react to his traps, someone who is (nearly) impossible to outwit and someone who isn’t likely to make mistakes. So how do you catch such a killer? How do you catch someone who’s been playing a cat and mouse game with you from the very beginning and who is always ready for your next move? Oh, it’s a clever idea.
The book itself and the mastermind behind the murders reminded me a little bit of the film Saw – both in terms of the killer’s clever tricks and his ability to predict your reactions, and the book’s brutality. The Night Stalker was gory and terrifying but One by One is way beyond that level. In fact, if it was a film I couldn’t watch it. No way. I know I’m getting into rambling mode now but the reason why I’m saying this is to warn you that it is very intense and it might not suit everyone. I can’t bear gore or too much adrenaline when it comes to films but interestingly, it doesn’t really bother me in books – and even I got to a point where I had to put the book down and take a break because I was getting a bit freaked out. It’s fantastic and superbly written, but… be prepared.
Again, something I’ve already mentioned in my previous review, one of the things I really enjoyed about the whole set-up is the fact that the book is divided into relatively short chapters and literally every single one of them ends with a cliffhanger of some sort. Which is great, because you simply can’t not go “okay, just one more chapter” before realizing it’s two in the morning and you’ve been reading non-stop for hours.
Another thing I love about Carter’s writing is that it’s not dark and violent just for the sake of it or just to be popular and sensationalist – there’s always a logical explanation for the murders and the killer’s behaviour and the killers always have a story to tell. Interestingly, Carter doesn’t go into too much detail about his characters and their personalities, yet the Hunter – Garcia duo is one of my favourite detective pairs so far. I love the fact that they’re not just work partners but they are really good friends as well and they genuinely care for each other.
One by One was one hell of a ride and, as terrifying it was sometimes, I was hooked from the very beginning. I can’t wait to read Carter’s next book but one thing is for certain: no matter what he comes up with, it’s going to be fantastic.
*Many thanks to Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy for review*