ShortBookandScribes #Extracts – Whetting Your Appetite for One By One by Ruth Ware!
As you might have heard (unless you’ve been under a rock somewhere), Ruth Ware has a new book out this week. Highly anticipated by me and lots of other readers, One by One is a tense thriller set on the ski slopes. I’m reading it at the moment and it’s brilliant. Ahead of Thursday’s publication, I have an exclusive written extract to share with you along with an audio extract as well. Thank you Graeme Williams and the team at Vintage for allowing me to whet your appetite.
**The unmissable new thriller from the queen of the modern-day murder mystery.**
Snow is falling in the exclusive alpine ski resort of Saint Antoine, as the shareholders and directors of Snoop, the hottest new music app, gather for a make or break corporate retreat to decide the future of the company. At stake is a billion-dollar dot com buyout that could make them all millionaires, or leave some of them out in the cold.
The clock is ticking on the offer, and with the group irrevocably split, tensions are running high. When an avalanche cuts the chalet off from help, and one board member goes missing in the snow, the group is forced to ask – would someone resort to murder, to get what they want?
Snoop ID: LITTLEMY
Listening to: Snooping XTOPHER
As the various members of the party assemble in the foyer, the song that keeps running through my head is not the Chilean R&B I was listening to before they came in (yes, I was snooping on Topher), but the Beautiful South’s ‘Rotterdam’. OK, not everyone is blond. But everyone is most certainly beautiful. Almost absurdly so. There is Eva’s assistant, cute little Ani with her heart-shaped face and buttercup hair. Topher’s PA Inigo, now sporting a bronze five o’clock shadow that makes his cheekbones look like he stepped off a film set. Even Carl the lawyer, who is probably the least conventionally attractive of the party, with his bullish expression and stocky frame, has a definite magnetism. ‘Thicc,’ Danny whispers appreciatively into my ear as he passes me with a tray of canapés. ‘I would, wouldn’t you?’
‘Carl? Uh, no,’ I whisper back, and Danny laughs, a deep throaty laugh, deliciously infectious.
‘Who then? Coder-dude over there?’
He nods at Elliot, who is standing in the same spot he chose on arrival, deliberately not making eye contact with anyone. I laugh, and shake my head, but it’s not because I find Elliot unattractive. OK, he looks rather like an awkward schoolboy, but he still manages to be sexy in a geek-chic kind of way. He has the kind of body that looks as if his bones are too big for his skin, all jutting wrists and angled cheekbones, and knobbly ankles protruding from too-short trousers. But his lips are surprisingly sensuous, and when one of his colleagues manoeuvres past him, she slips an arm around his midriff in a way that looks … well, it looks intimate. And Elliot doesn’t flinch away as I thought he might.
‘Come on,’ Topher calls over the sound of voices. ‘Let’s get this party started. Carl, Inigo, surely one of you can figure out this speaker system? Jesus, no one would think we were a tech company.’
From nowhere, music starts up. David Bowie, ‘Golden Years’, filtering out of the Bluetooth speakers. I’m not sure who put it on, but it’s an apt choice, almost to the point of irony. There is a definite gilded quality to this group. Nothing’s going to touch them.
‘Hey.’ The girl who pushed past Elliot has woven her way through the group to where Danny and I are standing. She is swaying in time to the beat, and wearing a very short sweater-dress that exposes slim, toned legs, made more diminutive by her Doc Martens boots. For a minute I can’t place her and I have a flutter of panic, but then I clock the ombré hair and nose ring. She is the woman who was holding the yoga mat when she arrived and the realisation enables me to remember her name. Yoga. Tiger. Tiger-Blue Esposito. Head of Cool.
‘Hi, Tiger,’ I say. I hold out the tray of cocktails I’m holding. ‘Can I offer you a drink? This is a bramble gin martini, or on the left is a marmalade old-fashioned.’
‘Actually I came over to get something to eat.’ She gives me a beguiling smile, showing very white, even teeth and a dimple in her peach-soft cheek. Her voice is throaty – reminding me of a cat’s purr and her odd name seems suddenly rather apt. ‘Sorry, I know it’s bad manners to hog the canapés straight out of the kitchen door, but the last tray were too good and I’m starving. They didn’t serve any food on the plane, so all I’ve had since breakfast is Krug.’ She pauses for a second, and then gives a surprisingly earthy laugh. ‘Oh, who am I kidding? I’m just pathologically greedy.’
‘Don’t apologise,’ Danny says. He holds out the tray, where his carefully handmade canapés stand in rows like little battalions. ‘I like a girl with a good appetite. These are Gouda-filled profiteroles –’ he points to the tiny, feather-like puffs on the left of the tray – ‘and these on the right are quails’ eggs with smoked ricotta.’
‘Are they both veggie?’ Tiger asks, and Danny nods.
‘Only the quails’ eggs.’
‘Great,’ Tiger says. The dimple flashes again, and she picks up a quail’s egg and pops it directly into her mouth, closing her eyes voluptuously as she chews. ‘Oh my God,’ she says as she swallows. ‘That was a canapé-shaped orgasm. Can I have another?’
‘Sure,’ Danny says with a grin. ‘But save room for your tea.’
She takes another, stuffs it into her mouth, and then says, thickly, ‘OK, save me from myself, take the tray away before I go full Homer Simpson and start drooling on the floor.’
Danny gives a little mock bow and moves over towards Elliot, and Tiger looks after him, appreciatively. I can’t blame her. Danny is kind, a great cook, and cute as hell.
‘Tiger,’ a clipped, monied voice says behind us, and I turn my head to see the PR woman, Miranda, stalking her way across the room. Her black hair is loose, a dark satin curtain down her back, and she’s wearing a stunning black silk jumpsuit, cinched in to show an enviably tiny waist, and midnight-blue velvet stilettos. I notice with a wince that the pointed heels are leaving little divots in the polished wood floor, but I can’t really say anything. Instead I hold out the tray of drinks. Miranda takes a glass without looking at me and dumps a half-eaten smoked duck skewer in the space left.
‘We need to talk,’ she says to Tiger. Her voice is high and sharp, her accent cut-glass, a few vowels away from full Princess Margaret.
‘Sure,’ Tiger says good-naturedly. She swallows and wipes her mouth. ‘Hey, have you tried the quails’ eggs? They’re to die for.’
‘Never mind that, Tigs, listen, we need to put some time aside to discuss the comms strategy on Elliot’s geosnoop release. I’ve just had that pushy little shit from Unwired on the phone asking about it.’
‘What?’ Tiger looks taken aback. ‘How did that get out? It’s not even in beta yet, is it?’
‘I have no idea, but I suspect Elliot blabbed about it. He’s never been able to stick to an embargo and he’s been telling anyone who’ll listen how “cool” it’s going to be.’ She makes air quotes as she says the word. ‘I think I’ve shut Unwired down for the moment, but it’s going to get out sooner or later and I have significant concerns about how it’s going to go over in the press. I don’t need to tell you that privacy on social is a big buzzword right now. I’m not sure if anyone’s clocked the change in user-end permissions yet, but it’s only a matter of time before they do. Christ, will someone please shut down that God-awful
She looks round at me, pressing her fingers to her temple, and I realise she’s talking about the music.
‘One of the guests put it on,’ I say, trying not to sound defensive, ‘but I’ll adjust the volume.’
‘I’m thinking we need two approaches,’ Miranda continues as I move away in search of the remote control for the speakers. ‘A plan A which assumes a deliberate timed release, i.e.
marketing, PR, social buzz and so on. Basically all the stuff we’d already sketched out. But then a plan B in case of an early leak, in which case the question then is whether we bring forward aspects of the marketing campaign to support our narrative. It’s absolutely essential we control the conversation on social.’
They launch into technicalities as the discussion fades away into the background babble. I locate the remote underneath a dirty napkin, turn the volume down a notch, and then glance at the clock on the mantelpiece. It’s 6.55. They should be moving through shortly, but someone seems to be missing.
‘Ah, about fucking time!’ a man’s voice says over my shoulder, and I turn to see Topher standing behind me. ‘Bloke could die of thirst waiting for service around here.’ He shakes his blond hair out of his eyes, then sweetens the rudeness with a grin that’s just the right side of charming.
‘So sorry!’ I hold out the tray, masking my irritation with a polite smile. ‘Bramble martini?’ Topher takes one, and knocks it back with alarming speed. I restrain the urge to tell him that they are about 50 per cent gin. ‘Carl?’ I hold out the tray to his colleague, who nods heavily and takes the last oldfashioned.
‘Cheers. Though I don’t need any more booze if I’m being honest – it’s food I’m after. Any more of them cheesy puffs going around? I’m bloody starving.’
‘Cheesy puffs!’ Topher scoffs. ‘That’s not how you maintain a ski-ready physique, Carl my dude.’
He pats Carl’s ample midriff, straining beneath a plaid shirt.
‘Carb-loading, mate,’ Carl says, with a wink at me. ‘Essential part of my training regime.’
‘Danny’s circulating with the canapés, I’m sure he’ll be over in just a sec,’ I say, though I can see over Carl’s shoulder that Danny has been cornered by Elliot who is methodically picking off the Gouda profiteroles one by one and putting them into his mouth like they are crisps. I hope there are some more in the kitchen. Topher has seen it too, and now he leans past me to grab Elliot’s shoulder.
‘Elliot, my man. Stop hogging the server. Carl is carb-loading,’ he says, and I take the opportunity to slip away and check on the rest of the room.
It’s 7.05 according to the clock above the fire, but when I count heads, only nine guests are present. Someone is late, and I’m not the only one who has noticed. Eva is tapping her foot and looking anxiously around.
‘Where the fuck is Liz?’ I hear her hiss at Inigo, who whispers something apologetic under his breath. Then his face brightens, and he touches Eva’s arm.
Eva looks up towards the gallery landing. I follow her gaze, to see Liz there, standing at the top of the spiral staircase. She has her arms crossed around herself, and her awkwardness makes Elliot look almost at his ease.
‘Liz!’ Eva calls, welcoming. ‘Come down, have a drink.’
Slowly, almost reluctantly, Liz descends the stairs. She’s wearing the lumpish, unflattering black dress that I saw when I encountered her in her room earlier, and my heart sinks for her. It’s cut all wrong for her shape, making her look like a bunch of potatoes in a sock, and you can tell from the way she’s holding herself, plucking at her VPL that she knows it. At the foot of the stairs she pauses, and flexes her finger joints, like a kind of nervous tic. It makes a crackle like wood popping on a hot fire, surprisingly unpleasant.
I am about to step forward with a drink, but to my surprise, Topher forestalls me. He grabs a bramble martini from my tray and rushes forward, holding it out towards Liz with a puppy-dog expression of eagerness on his face.
It is so out of character that I blink.
Who is this woman? Why are they so keen to keep her on side? It’s almost like . .. I frown, wondering. It’s almost like they’re afraid of her.
But that’s absurd.
Snoop ID: ANON101
Listening to: offline
They are all waiting, crowding around the bottom of the stairs as I reach the foyer – Eva, Topher, Inigo, Rik. Eva is wearing a long dress of white wool that I think is probably cashmere and which makes me feel like a frump. Topher is wearing jeans and an open-neck shirt. He is brandishing a martini glass in my face.
‘Cocktail, Liz?’ he says, flashing a smile.
‘No thanks,’ I say.
‘Come on,’ Topher says. His voice is his very best cajoling charm. ‘It’s a special occasion – all the gang back together!’
I should smile, but I do not feel like smiling. My dress is too tight. I wore Spanx underwear to try to make it fit better, but it is pinching and my stomach hurts. And the music is too loud.
‘Thanks, but I’ve got a headache,’ I say. I do not want to tell Topher the truth – that I do not drink alcohol any more. He might wonder why – what has changed since I left Snoop.
‘Oh, you poor thing,’ Topher says. ‘Let me get you something, I’ve got some ibuprofen in my room. Inigo –’
‘No thanks,’ I say again. My heart is beating in a weird fluttery way that is making me feel slightly sick. ‘I don’t want any painkillers. I think I need a glass of water.’
‘It’s probably the altitude,’ Eva says solicitously. ‘And the dry air. It’s very easy to get dehydrated up here. You’re so sensible not to drink alcohol.’
Topher frowns at Inigo and jerks his head towards the kitchen. Inigo nods, and hurries off. I suppose he has gone to get me water. This feels so wrong. It used to be me Topher barked at. And honestly, I preferred that. I preferred being invisible.
When Inigo comes back, Topher grabs the glass off him and says to the others, ‘Let’s give Liz some space.’ Then he ushers me over to a small sofa where he gestures for me to sit down. I can’t see any way out so I do. Topher sits beside me, too close, and takes one of my hands.
I feel my sense of panic rise.
I know what he’s going to say.
‘Liz, I just wanted to tell you,’ he begins. I look around, panicked. My heart keeps skipping beats. I wonder if I might have some kind of heart defect. Topher is talking about how proud he is of having given me my start, about the way I stood out at the interview, about the contribution I made to Snoop, about our ‘journey together’.
His words are drowned out by the janglingly loud background music and a weird hissing in my ears. But I don’t need to listen to his words to know what he is really saying.
I stood up for you.
I gave you your chance.
You wouldn’t be here without me.
You owe me.
And he’s right. I know he’s right. That’s the worst thing.
Because I’m about to betray all of that.
He’s being so nice that I want to be sick. But at the same time I can smell the booze on his breath and feel the heat of his body shoved up against mine, and all I can think of is my father, lowering over me.
I am about to nervously crack the joints in my fingers, when a voice comes into my head unbidden. If you make that disgusting sound one more time …
I flinch, in spite of myself.
‘ . .. and that makes me so proud,’ Topher is finishing.
I have no idea what to say. Before I can come up with anything, there is a high ringing noise from the far side of the foyer.
It is Eva’s assistant, Ani. She is wearing a silk dress that looks like it is made of two scarves tied together, and she is standing on her tiptoes and tapping two champagne flutes together. It makes a ting ting ting sound that echoes around the foyer.
Everyone falls quiet, apart from Elliot. He is still speaking to Rik. His deep bass monotone booms around the silent lobby.
‘ . .. server problems with the geosnoop roll out, if we can’t –’
Rik nudges Elliot, who looks around. He breaks off midsentence, his face confused.
Beside me, Topher has gone completely stiff and his expression is taken aback. This must be Eva’s presentation. But it looks as if Topher knew nothing about it.
Suddenly I know what this is. I know what is happening. This is an ambush.
No. That’s not the right word.
This is a coup.
Hope you enjoyed that teaser. The two chapters feature quite early in the book and give a good introduction to the characters.
Here’s the audio extract too:
I hope you enjoyed all of that and that it’s got you excited to read One by One. I’ll be sharing my review on Thursday so please do come back then.