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One by One

Recap & Book Summary



The Quick Recap and Section-by-Section Summary for One by One by Ruth Ware are below. Spoiler warning: these summaries contains spoilers.

For a non-spoiler version of the plot synopsis, see The Bibliofile's review of One by One by Ruth Ware.

Quick(-ish) Recap

A group of ten people from a startup called Snoop arrive at a nine-room luxury ski chalet in France for a company retreat. Only accessible by funicular (a tunneled railroad), the ski lodge is secluded with the main town of St. Antoine far down the mountain. Erin (housekeeper) and Danny (cook) work at the chalet.

Snoop is a app that lets you listen in on music that other people are listening to. There is currently a buyout offer for Snoop. The only people with voting rights in the company are the four founders (Rik, Elliot, Eva, and Topher), and Liz. Liz is the quiet outcast of the group, a former assistant at Snoop. When they were in a financial bind, Liz had agreed to invest $10K of a recent inheritance in exchange for 2% voting shares. Now, Eva (30% voting power) and Rik (19%) want to sell. But Topher (30%) and Elliot (19%) do not. Liz's will be the deciding vote, and she is struggling with the decision. (The non-voting members of Snoop are Tiger, Miranda, Ani, Carl and Inigo.)

Liz feels indebted to Topher, who was the one who encouraged her to negotiate for voting rights and equity (as opposed to repayment). But Liz's shares are worth $12 million in a buyout, and Eva is pressuring her to sell. After tense discussions, the group goes skiing. However, Eva doesn't return. Erin and Danny try to go out to get help, but there is an avalanche, resulting in Erin spraining her ankle and poor reception in the area. Still, Inigo manages to call the police.

The power also goes down in the chalet, and the backup generator is inaccessible due to the avalanche. Elliot (tech guy) uses a charging brick he brought and the app's new geolocation feature to locate Eva's phone. However, it shows that Eva likely plunged off the side of a cliff. After the shock wears off, they realize an early shareholder agreement stipulates that in the event of Eva's death, Eva's shares must be sold to Topher, which means that her death gives Topher a total of 60% voting power.

Soon, however, Elliot is found dead, with traces of white powder in a cup near him, with his computer completely destroyed. They start to raise the possibility that Eva was murdered, too. Scared, they agree to stay in groups and implement other precautions. Then, Inigo disappears. He leaves a note saying that he's made a mistake, and he is going to fix it, though no one knows what he's referring to.

That night, they all pair off to sleep, except for Liz. Ani (who is paired with Tiger) goes over to invite her to join them, but Liz declines. Tiger awakes to find Ani smothered to death in her sleep. Tiger had taken a sleeping pill and didn't wake while Ani was being murdered, and Danny's key (to all the rooms) is missing. Meanwhile, it comes out that Erin is not what she seems. Her brother went to boarding school with Topher, Rik, and Elliot. Erin's brother and boyfriend died in an avalanche, and she was with them at the time.

Unwilling to stay and get picked off one by one, the group comes up with a plan for the experienced skiiers to try to ski down for help and for the rest go walk to the nearby chalet, three hours away, to get help. Liz falls and injures her knee and Erin's ankle is hurt, so they stay put. But after the others leave, Erin finds Danny's missing key in the place Liz had been sitting, and Erin realizes Liz is likely the killer. Liz picks up on this and gives Erin tea with sleeping pills in it.

Thinking that Erin is about to die, Liz admits that she is the killer, and that Eva had been blackmailing her to get her vote. Liz had been sexually assaulted by a potential investor and pushed him away from her, off of a balcony to his death. Eva helped her cover it up. Elliot had been on the verge of finding out that Liz was on the slope at the time of Eva's death, due to the new geolocation feature. And Ani had known that Liz wasn't where she said she was (on the lift) when Eva died.

Erin pretends to drink the tea and escapes on skis (since she can't walk/run). Liz follows. Erin travels down a difficult, hidden path, and Liz is killed trying to follow after her. Erin is soon rescued.

Two days later, Inigo tells Erin that the he mistakenly gave the police the wrong name of the chalet which is why they didn't show up sooner. That was the mistake he was trying to fix. Meanwhile, Topher has received a file of information from Eva's husband. Apparently, Eva had dirt on all sorts of people. It includes a video of Liz killing the potential investor. It shows that Liz pushed him away, but that she pushed him a second time (off the balcony) to purposely murder him. It's also clear that Eva had set up the situation (with Liz as the victim), in order to get dirt on the investor, not realizing what Liz's true nature was.

Soon, the chalet is closed down, and Snoop is shut down and goes into bankruptcy. The book ends with Danny telling Erin about a new app, called Choon (which is basically just like Snoop, but with a different name).

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Section-by-Section Summary

Prologue

The book opens with a list of the employees at a British music app startup called Snoop and a news article about tragedy at a ski resort. It describes a “house of horror” situation, leaving four dead and two injured. There has also been heavy snows and an avalanche (and subsequent power outage) in the area recently, which killed six people.

Chapters 1 – 5

The timeline then jumps to Five Days Earlier. Erin and Danny are employees at a nine-room ski resort in France in St Antoine. The resort accessible only be funicular (a tunneled railroad), and helicopters can’t reach it sometimes when there’s inclement weather. Danny is the cook, and Erin cleans. They also work with Kate, who deals with bookings and logistics for the company’s chalets in the area.

Soon, the guests from Snoop show up for a week-long company retreat. Snoop is an app that allows you to listen in on what music other people are listening to in real time. It’s used primarily to follow celebrities, but if you’re on Snoop then anyone else can listen in on your feed as well. Snoop has booked all nine rooms, but they’re embarrassed to realize they actually have ten people (they forgot about Liz, the quiet outcast of the group). It’s decided that two of the Snoop employees, Carl and Indigo, will have to share a room.

Liz is a former employee, who worked there for a year, but left three years ago. She is insecure and dislikes everyone else there. She only really knows the four original founders of the company: Rik, Elliot, Eva, and Topher.

Chapters 6 – 11

Everyone assembles for a company presentation that night. Eva begins talking and it soon becomes clear that she is attempting to convince them to accept a buyout offer and sell the company.

Liz is here because she owns a small amount of voting stock in the company. When the company had run out of money, Liz put in 10,000 pounds (inheritance from a recently-deceased grandmother) in exchange for voting shares. The division of shares is: Topher 30%, Eva 30%, Elliot 19%, Rik 19%, and Liz with 2%. (In the event of a buyout, Liz’s shares will be worth around $12 million now.)

Topher is firmly against the plan, and Elliot is likely to be on Topher’s side. Meanwhile, Eva and Rik are on board with selling. That means Liz’s vote is the deciding vote. Now, the founders are eager to please her so she’ll vote their way.

Back in her room, Liz debates what to do. On one hand, she is grateful to Topher, who was the one who gave her a job and even suggested that she insist on equity (instead of repayment) for her investment in the company. On the other, is the prospect of a $12 million payout.

Chapters 12 – 19

The next morning, Erin wakes up to a nightmare of herself digging through snow. Afterwards, she cleans up and talks to Jacques, the baker who brings by baguettes. Jacques predicts a snowstorm may be coming soon.

After breakfast, the company has a quick meeting. Then, the five stockholders take vote to see where each person is at. They all vote predictably, and then await to see what Liz says. Liz admits that she doesn’t know, but afterwards she privately assures Eva that she’ll vote to sell, like they’ve agreed.

They group, apart from Elliot, goes skiing. When they’re ready to leave, Topher, an experienced skiier, coaxes the rest of the group to do one last, difficult run. When they get to the top, Liz, a very inexperienced skiier, freaks out and decides to take the lift back down. When they get to the bottom, they see that Eva, who decided to ski a difficult black run (La Sorcière) that had purposely been closed due to low visibility, is not there.

They try calling the skip pass office to check if Eva has used her lift pass to go down. Getting a busy signal, Danny and Erin decide to ski down there instead. Also, they may need to report her missing to the police. However, after they leave, the rumble of an avalanche is heard, and soon Danny trudges in with an injured Erin. They report that the avalanche took out the funicular, and the mountain is covered in boulders, so it’s not a good idea to ski.

The pool house of the resort is also damaged, and there’s very poor reception. Inigo manages to get a little reception on his phone and calls the police to report what has happened, though the police are swamped with reports of avanche-related emergencies. Later, there’s a power outage, but there’s nothing to be done because the backup generator was in the pool house which is inaccessible.

Chapters 20 – 23

Erin, a medical school dropout, tends to her leg. She notes that it’s not broken, just badly sprained. Then, Topher updates Erin, saying that they know where Eva’s phone is.

Their app was updated to allow for geolocating their users (showing where they are with GPS), and Elliot (their tech guy) was able to fetch the data. (They’re also testing a feature to show data about which other users are nearby.) Topher shows Erin the location of Eva’s phone. Unfortunately, it’s located just off a steep drop, so if that’s accurate, then Eva is most likely dead. Liz is saddened by the idea of them having to break the news to Eva’s husband, Arnaud, or her son, Raddison.

Afterwards, they discuss what Eva’s death would mean for the company. In terms of the shares, Topher says that early on there was an agreement that the shares cannot be transferred out of the company. Instead, they have to be sold to either Topher or Eva. With Eva gone, her shares would pass to her husband, but he would be forced to sell (based on an independent valuation) to Topher.

In effect, Eva’s death means that Topher would now control 60% of the voting stock in the company.

That night, as Erin drops off some extra blankets for the guests, she find Topher drunk and sleeping with Ani, one of the Snoop employees. He also insists that he recognizes Erin from somewhere, but she says she doesn’t think so.

Chapters 24 – 31

Erin calls everyone together to update them on the situation. When Elliot doesn’t show up, Ani goes to fetch him, but finds him slumped over, dead. In his cup, they find a white powder. His computer is also smashed to pieces, indicated that this was intentional.

Topher is distraught to find out Elliot is dead, saying that there was something Elliot had wanted to talk to him about. Elliot’s death also prompts people to quietly raise the possibility that Eva’s death may have not been an accident. Privately, Erin tells Danny that she thinks Elliot was likely killed for something on his computer, since that would explain the murderer taking the time to destroy it so thoroughly. They also wonder if Elliot killed Eva, since he has no alibi for the day she died. Perhaps he was killed to cover up that death.

When they start to ask Inigo about when the police might show up, he is vague and the group questions whether he really called the police or not. Inigo gets upset, saying that did call them and that he loved Eva (revealing they had an affair) and would not harm her.

Acknowledging that they are stuck here and there may be a killer on the loose, Erin gives the group instructions about being careful what they eat, to stay in groups, and other precautions. Erin and Danny also talk about what alibis each person has. They recall that Ani is the only one who says they saw Eva skiing on La Sorcière. Ani also told Inigo about it, so as far as they know, those were the only two people who knew Eva was there.

Chapters 32 – 39

Later, Inigo goes off by himself, leaving a note to say that he’s made a mistake, but is going to fix it. No one knows what he’s referring to. That night, they all pair off to go to sleep. Erin + Danny, Rik + Miranda (a couple), Tiger + Ani; Carl + Topher. Liz chooses to stay alone, even though Ani invites her to join their duo. They’re all instructed to lock their doors.

That night, Ani goes over to Liz’s room to try to convince her to stay with them, but Liz declines again. She says that Tiger is fast asleep after taking a pill. Ani also implies that there’s something she saw that’s important, but can’t quite put her finger on what it was. A little later, they hear a scream coming from Tiger’s room. Ani is dead, and it appears she’d been smothered to death in her sleep.

As they try to sort out what happened, Danny realizes that someone has stolen his key (which allows access to all the rooms). Topher also finally realizes how he knows Erin. Her brother (deceased) had gone to boarding school with Topher, Rik and Elliot. He tells the rest of them that Erin’s real name is Lady Dorothea de Plessis FitzClarence, and that she is the youngest daughter of the Marquess of Cardale. Erin’s brother, Alex FitzClarence, died in avalanche along with his best friend, Will Hamilton. Erin was with them at the time, and she was the only survivor.

Chapters 40 – 43

Liz mentions that Ani had wanted to say something. Tiger suddenly remembers. She says that Ani had tried to wake her and said “I didn’t see her”, implying that Ani didn’t actually see Eva on the slopes. But then Liz says that she saw Eva skiing when she was riding the lift.

However, Miranda reiterates that Topher had the most incentive to kill Eva. Tired of being accused of murder, Topher is determined to ski down, away from the chalet even though it’s treacherous out there. But others want to leave as well. Finally, they come up with a plan. The stronger skiiers, Topher, Rik and Tiger will ski down to get help. The others will trek three hours through the snow to a larger chalet nearby. Whoever makes it first will send help for the rest.

At the group prepares for their journeys, Liz comes to the realization that Topher was using her all along. He advocated for her to get voting shares because he figured he could control her. He saw it as a way to tip the balance in his favor and have an insurance policy.

Chapters 44 – 56

As Liz heads downstairs, she trips and hurts her knee. She’s unable to walk, so they decide that Danny will join Miranda and Carl in walking to the nearby chalet. Still, Danny worries that Inigo is still on the loose somewhere and doesn’t like the idea of Erin staying there with just Liz. He reminds her not to open the door to anyone no matter what, until either he or the police show up.

Alone in the house, Liz and Erin chat. Erin talks about having to dig her boyfriend out of the snow, knowing he was dead, to get to his GPS beacon to call for help. Erin says that she was the one who wanted to ski off-piste (back-country skiing, not on the path), but she was the one to survive.

The water stops working, presumably because the pipes have frozen. Because of how cold it is in the chalet without heat, they decide to sleep downstairs. Liz goes up to grab her bedding while Erin turns the sofas into beds. However, as she does, she finds Danny’s missing key in the cushions where Liz had been sitting. She realizes with horror that it Liz may be the killer.

Desperate to get out of there, Erin remembers that Elliot had a charging block he’d been using to power his computer after the electricity had gone out. In hopes of trying to call or text for help, she goes into his room and finds his phone there, and uses his thumb to get past the lock screen. His Snoop app has been updated to the test version that shows who is nearby. Erin sees that Elliot had started following a user “Anon101” just before he died, and that the person is nearby, so it must be Liz.

Chapters 57 – 63

Erin starts getting extremely jumpy when she sees Liz. Liz thinks about how people have a tendency to pull away from her. She was bullied as a kid. She also remembers how a boy she’d liked, Kevin, had called her a weirdo and screamed at her.

Erin theorizes that Liz could have been the one to kill Eva. When Ani said “I didn’t see her”, she was talking about not seeing Liz on the lift. Instead, Liz was just pretending to be a bad skiier so she could attack Eva. Elliot must have realized that someone nearby had been on the slopes with Eva, but wasn’t sure who yet. Liz must’ve realized his data could reveal the truth, so she killed him and destroyed his computer.

They go to sleep, but Erin lies awake in fear. Then, Liz hears a soft beep that comes from Elliot’s phone in his room. Liz has figured out by now that Erin is on to her. When they go check out the noise, Liz sees that Erin has sent a text to Danny which reads: “SOS, Please send help. IT’S LIZ.” and that he has responded.

Chapters 64 – 71

Erin realizes she needs to stall for time until Danny gets there, so she asks Liz about what really happened. Meanwhile, Liz tries to sneak sleeping pills into Erin’s tea. Liz explains that after she gave them the money, she had been treated more as real person. As a minority investor, Liz had gone with Eva to meet a potential investor. However, the guy had assaulted Liz. Liz ended up pushing him away forcefully, but he fell off the balcony they were on and died. Eva dealt with the situation, and it was chalked up to the drugs and alcohol in his system.

Erin understands that Eva must’ve held it over her when it came to the vote. Liz felt indebted to Topher, but Eva had dirt on her. It put Liz in an impossible position. Liz then describes how she wore another jacket like Eva’s underneath and then skiied down to push her off the precipice. She talks, too, about smothering Tiger. When she’s done talking, she sees that Erin’s teacup — with enough pills to kill her — is empty and Erin is getting drowsy.

However, Erin is just pretending and she’s been dumping the tea out secretly. Meanwhile, Liz has texted Danny to say that when the text said “It’s Liz” she was saying that she (as in, the person who is texting is) Liz and that Erin is the one who has confessed everything. Erin knows she needs to get away and her ankle still hurts too much to walk. She knows that skiing down to the city is the only option.

Liz realizes that Erin has tricked her and finds her before she can leave. There’s a struggle, but Erin manages to stumble and fall through the window, but she loses her helmet and scarf in the process. It’s a mess outside, covered in trees and boulders. Instead, she opts for a secret passage that few know about, but it’s dangerous and there’s no way for someone else to rescue you once you’re on that path. After Erin sets off, Liz sees that Erin’s tracks lead into the forest.

Chapters 72 – 80

Erin sets off, she gets off to an okay start, though she wipes out after a while and needs to dig her ski out of the snow. Meanwhile, Liz is able to follow her tracks, but injures herself badly. Erin continues skiing the difficult path, but she has skiied it before. However, Liz will be following her tracks, which will make it easier and faster for Liz. Liz is close to catching up, but just before she does, he run head-on into a rock wall.

At close to the end of the path, Erin hears the sound as Liz hits the wall. Erin wants to just leave, but she knows she can’t, thinking of her brother and boyfriend dying in the snow. She turns back to find Liz. When she gets there, Liz is dead, and there is blood everywhere. Suddenly, she hears a buzzing. It’s Danny calling.

Chapters 81 – 84

It’s now two days later. The police are trying to investigate everything that happened. None of them are allowed to leave the area. They are all put into a B&B in the area. Danny, Erin, Topher, Rik, Miranda, Carl and even Inigo are there.

When Erin sees Inigo, he cries out in apology for leaving them. He finally explains that he told the police the wrong name of the chalet. (The name is french and his french is awful.) He went to ski down to the town to try to tell the police the right location. He didn’t tell the others, because he knew it was his mistake to fix. Instead, he got lost and woke up in a hospital. Inigo thinks that if only he’d gotten the name right, that they’d all still be alive. As Erin tells Inigo it’s not his fault, she thinks about how she has been told so many times that deciding to ski off-piste (Which resulted in the death of her brother and boyfriend) wasn’t her fault.

Erin tearfully reunites with Danny, and sees the rest of the group. Topher has an announcement. The buyout offer has been withdrawn, and Arnaud (Eva’s husband) has sent him a file of information (from Eva). It contains dirt on a lot of people. There’s also a video of Liz and the man (the potential investor) on the balcony. It shows her not just pushing him away, but when he’s on the edge, she pushes him again to make sure he falls off.

Afterwards, the discuss the video, but Erin doesn’t understand why someone was filming. Then, Erin realizes that Eva is clearly someone who is not above blackmail, and she remembers that Liz had overhead Eva saying the guy (the potential investor) liked young women who were like Liz. Eva must’ve sent Liz to him, knowing Liz would be sexually assaulted and then filmed it so she would have dirt on the investor. However, Eva hadn’t realized what Liz’s true nature was.

Afterwards, the Snoop employees argue about what to do with the information. Do they bury it and ruin the company, or do they admit it?

Chapters 85 – 89

Three weeks later, they’re also closing down the chalet since they’ve lost all their bookings. Meanwhile, Snoop has filed for bankruptcy and shut down the servers. Topher writes Erin a note apologizing for revealing that information about her at the chalet (who she was and about the death of her brother and boyfriend. He also says that he turned the whole file and video into the police.

Danny is going off to work for the B&B that the police had put them in. Before he leaves, he tells Erin about a new app he just downloaded called Choon (which is basically like Snoop).

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