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One Perfect Couple
(Review, Recap & Full Summary)

By Ruth Ware

Book review, full book summary and synopsis for One Perfect Couple by Ruth Ware, a quick and addictive survival thriller slash psychological thriller about a couples reality TV show filming at a luxury resort on a desert island that goes terribly wrong.


In One Perfect Couple by Ruth Ware, Lydia is a post-doc virologist whose aspiring actor boyfriend Nico wants them to sign up for the cast of a reality TV show set at a luxury resort on a deserted Island.

Lydia reluctantly agrees, and they're soon joined by the four other couples competing in the same Love Island meets Survivor-type show. But things start to go awry very quickly and it's only a short time before bodies start turning up dead.

In this exciting and suspenseful survival thriller slash psychological thriller, the only prize anyone is really playing for is trying to get off the Island alive...

(The Full Plot Summary is also available, below)

Full Plot Summary

Ending & Explanations
See the Questions, Ending and Explanations
Chapter-by-Chapter Summary
See the Chapter-by-Chapter Summary of One Perfect Couple
Quick Plot Summary

Two-paragraph version: Layla and Nico are one of five couples selected to participate in an elimination-style reality TV show filming at a luxury resort on a deserted island off the coast of Indonesia. Nico quickly gets eliminated. That night, a severe storm blows through, leaving the island's infrastructure destroyed and two dead. When it becomes clear help may not be coming, Connor, one of the remaining eight survivors on the island, takes control of rationing the group's supplies. He kills two of the others, Bayer and Dan, when they disagrees with him. One person disappears.

Connor's distribution of supplies is unequal, and he abuses his girlfriend, Zana, into submission. The remaining three women concoct a plan to kill Connor by overdosing him with insulin. When the plan goes awry, Zana attacks Connor and drowns him. The four women then recharge a radio battery to make outside contact and ask for help. They're rescued and falsify the truth of what happened on the island to prevent Zana from being accused of murdering Connor.

In Part I, Layla, a post-doc virologist, and Nico, an aspiring actor, are offered a spot in a couples reality television show that Nico thinks it'll be good for his career. Layla reluctantly agrees, and they're soon flown to Jakarta, and from there they take a yacht to Ever After Island, just off the coast of Indonesia. Layla overhears that a storm is coming and hopes it'll clear. They'll be staying at a newly-built luxury resort along with the four other couples in the show's cast.

The premise of the show, One Perfect Couple, is that the couples will participate in challenges, and contestants will get eliminated. This means their partners to have to "recouple" with members of other couples until only one couple is left. Baz is the producer of the show while his assistant Camille does most of hands-on work. When Layla and Nico arrive, they meet the other couples - Romi and Joel, Bayer and Angel, Connor and Zana, and Dan and Santana. Each couple in the cast is assigned a villa to stay in, but the crew of the show returns to stay on the boat at night.

The first challenge of the show is to see how well the couples know each other by guessing your partner's responses to a questionnaire. Layla gets the highest score while Nico gets the lowest score. Nico is immediately eliminated, leaving Layla there by herself. As the winner, Layla get to stay at the special "water villa" for the night along with someone the producers choose her "perfect match" -- in this case, Joel.

After the first day of filming, Layla and others discuss how something seems off. The resort facilities aren't done being constructed and the crew of the show is oddly small. There's also a lack of the support team that most other similar shows have like an on staff psychologist or welfare crew or even on-site medical staff.

Meanwhile, the first part of the book is interspersed with snippets of an emergency radio transmission. Through those snippets, we know that there will be a storm and by the second day of filming they'll be marooned on the island, with some having sustained severe injuries. Mayday calls go unanswered. Soon, two are dead and there are injuries among the other seven. Then, the radio runs out of batteries.

In Part II, Layla and Joel stay at special "water villa" that first night. The villa is built out on a wooden platform out on top of the water, with a wooden walkway connecting it to the island. But a brutal storm arrives and destroys the walkway, leaving Layla and Joel stranded. In the morning, the storm has passed but much of the island's infrastructure is gone, and there are downed trees and debris everywhere. The yacht (which was supposed to sail to an island to drop Baz off and then return) is also nowhere to be seen. There is no electricity and no sign of a generator.

They swim back to the island, and quickly find that Joel's girlfriend Romi was crushed by a tree in her bed, and the sole staff member who was assigned to stay on the island appears to have been hit by a flying object and has bled out and died. Additionally, Santana was hit by some metal sheeting, and her leg has been torn open. Layla and Dan scramble to clean and bandage the wound. Bayer has a dislocated shoulder, which Connor helps to put back into place, though Bayer continues to be in pain and short with everyone.

Only three villas are intact. Connor rebuilds a walkway for the Ever After Villa (the "water villa") so it is accessible, and he and Zana stay there. Layla, Joel, Santana and Dan stay in one in-tact villa. And Bayer and Angel are offered the other one, Palm Tree Rest.

They bury the dead and attempt to place mayday calls that go unanswered. They take stock of what supplies they have. Two days after the storm, Connor suggests they need to start rationing supplies, since they don't know how long they will be there. When Bayer takes more than his ration of water, Connor and Bayer argue. They next day, Connor has moved all the food and water to his water villa for safekeeping. Bayer takes exception to this and their fight escalates, with Connor beating Bayer until he is dead.

Dan soon feels increasingly uncomfortable with Connor holding all their supplies hostage. Dan tries to engage in a discussion about it, but Connor becomes threatening when questioned. Joel takes Connor's side.

Soon, Dan's girlfriend Santana, a diabetic, finds that all her insulin is missing. Dan is enraged and believes Connor took it. He goes to confront Connor, but doesn't come back. Connor claims he hasn't seen Dan. Dan's body soon washes up onshore. Layla finds a vial of Santana's insulin in his hand which seems to indicate he'd found and confronted whoever had it before he died. Layla, Angel and Santana don't think Connor had the opportunity to take it, but they think Joel might've taken it on Connor's behalf so that Connor would have leverage to keep Dan in line.

Around this time, they stop seeing Joel around, and Connor demands that the women bring fresh coconuts in order to "earn" their water ration and to help increase their water supplies. Layla asks him to at least give them their water ration for that day. When Zana agrees with Layla, Connor hurts Zana as punishment for going against him.

Zana relents and joins the other women in finding coconuts. She's up in a tree when she spots a ship in the distance. The women run to start a bonfire and try to flag it down. Connor does not help, and instead he appears to be assessing the situation. The ship passes.

Meanwhile, the second section of the book is interspersed with diary entries written by Zana. Initially, they match up with the events going on. Once Bayer is killed and Dan's body is found, they no longer do so and instead present a much rosier version of events that don't implicate Connor.

In Part III, the women go to talk to Zana and see that she has a black eye. The other women discuss how Connor probably prefers them dead so that if they're rescued he doesn't get convicted of murdering Bayer. Angel tells them it's kill or be killed, so they need to kill Connor first.

They concoct a plan to kill Connor. They plan to use sleeping pills to put Connor to sleep by grinding it up and putting it in a coconut for him to drink. When he's out, they inject him with an overdose of Santana's remaining insulin. He awakes and tries to fight them, and they wrestle with him. But then Zana attacks him and drowns him. Angel and Layla manage to get a small charge to the radio battery.

They're able to contact a small boat, which calls for help. They're saved. Zana is worried about potentially being convicted of murdering Connor. So, they falsify a set of diary entries to account for all the deaths in a way where they didn't sound like they wanted Connor dead.

Once they are off the island, they figure out that Baz hated Connor because Connor dated his niece and she committed suicide after (Santana figures this out because she knew the niece from high school). Everyone cast on the show had a negative connection with Connor or help to bring out his true personality. The whole point of the show was for Connor to get his comeuppance and of course for must-see TV of watching a famous YouTuber melt down on television -- but of course it was at the expense of everyone else in the cast.

For more detail, see the full Chapter-by-Chapter Summary.

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Book Review

One Perfect Couple by Ruth Ware is a quick, addictive little read.

The first thing to know about this book is that unlike most of Ware’s books, this is part survival thriller and part psychological thriller. It’s got a couple twists in store, but fans of hers who are expecting a straight up psychological thriller should probably tweak their expectations just a little.

I don’t read a ton of “survival thriller” type stuff but I think the blend of that with the psychological thriller elements really worked for me. One Perfect Couple goes by really fast. The survival aspects of the story keeps thing moving at a rapid clip, while the psychological thriller elements give it that something extra where you know there’s more going on than meets the eye.

I would describe the plot of this as a locked island survival-slash-psychological-thriller. Five couples are on a deserted island filming a “Love Island meets Survivor” reality TV show called One Perfect Couple. Things go awry very quickly and there’s dead bodies washing up on shore before long.

Plot-wise, a lot of the book is focused on the survival elements. So, this book is much more straight-forward than your typical psychological thriller. If you’re hoping for something really tangled and twisty, this is probably not going to do it for you. However, I do think this book keeps things interesting. Straightforward definitely does not mean boring, and there’s plenty of excitement and wondering what might happen in this book.

A lot of that is a testament to Ware doing a great job of foreshadowing just enough and planting little hints of something “off” so you know there’s more in store. You can really feel her experience as a writer and her keen understanding of how to create tension and suspense, even outside of a standard mystery context.

Let’s be clear, this is not really a mystery novel.

I feel like I should really reiterate that this is decidedly not a who-dun-it. There’s a constant question of what will happen next, but this isn’t a psychological thriller where there’s dead bodies everywhere and no clear indication of who did it and a ton of suspects. It’s not that type of story. I mean, there’s a brief wisp of that in there, but that’s really the crux of the story.

I think both because of what Ruth Ware typically writes and the marketing of the book, I imagine a lot of people will go into this expecting a who-dun-it. I sort of question the wisdom of marketing this as “harkening to Agatha Christie’s classic And There Were None” since I worry that it’s doing the book a disservice by setting people up to be expecting a slightly different type of book.

I assume the book marketing gods know better than I do? I know stuff like that certainly catches my eye. But personally, I think it’s not entirely accurate and perhaps not a helpful indicator of the content of the book.

One Perfect Couple is, however, a entertaining and quick survival thriller with some psychological thriller and suspense elements that I think was a lot of fun to read. I think if you can let go of the “murder mystery” idea and embrace that it’s a thriller with suspense, and there is some mystery in how the situation might be resolved, I think a lot of her fans will also like this book.

Read it or Skip it?

I think as long as you know it’s a survival thriller slash psychological thriller and that sounds good to you, this is easy to recommend. It’s fun and fast and exciting ride. I suppose there is a twist or two in One Perfect Couple. They add a little spice, but it’s not the reason to read this book.

Ultimately, I think you really have to be down for some survival thriller action if you’re going to like it. I was into it, and I liked the book.

If you’re on the fence, as long as you’re okay with this not being a standard murder mystery novel, I’d say give it a shot, especially if you like Ware’s writing style. This book goes by quickly, and I think most thriller fans would enjoy it.

See One Perfect Couple on Amazon.

One Perfect Couple Audiobook

Narrator: TBA
Length: 12 hrs and 30 mins

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Ending & Explanations

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Book Excerpt

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