Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Book Links: Goodreads
Carter: What depraved madness and thriller magic have you worked on me?
One by One is transcendent. It flies above the author's other works with its gripping and grotesque story. It bypasses a reader's defences with its apt and undeniable social commentary. It informs us of things we already know and see on a daily basis, things that hauntingly don't shake us in the slightest. This book, will force you to confront that mentality.
I have goosebumps. One of the best reads I've experienced all year.
One of the best reads period.
Synopsis (This time round, I'll be using the blurb that comes with my edition of the book.)
Detective Robert Hunter of the LAPD's Homicide Special Section receives an anonymous call asking him to go to a specific web address. Forced to make a sickening choice, Hunter must sit and watch as an unidentified victim is tortured and murdered live over the Internet.
The LAPD, together with the FBI, use everything at their disposal to trace the transmission, but this killer has covered his tracks. And before Hunter and his partner Garcia are even able to get their investigation going, Hunter receives another phone call.
A new website address. A new victim. But this time the killer has upgraded his game into a live murder reality show, where anyone can cast the deciding vote...
Plot - 5/5 Stars
Hell to the holy crap! If the book's blurb doesn't pique your interest with its imaginative snippet, then... no, there's no then, there's just you rushing to the nearest book-buying place and picking this gem up. One by One sounds crazy (in the best way), and crazy is right up my street (when it comes to fiction, not real life).
I don't think I've ever read such a caustic beginning before. This is something else... The chills and terror, the visuals and vividness, the surrender of hope and the feeling of utter helplessness makes the fifth entry in Carter's series one of his most trying. And by that, I mean, the monstrous opening scenes assault your stomach and its contents.
But you won't stop reading...
The story itself is a dizzying dose of delight. Well, if dark crime thrillers delight you. I feel I should stop there, it's not sounding too good for me.
Simply: One by One will pull you under and not let you resurface until the last page. Even then, you're not likely to remove its influence over your thoughts. It's a crime novel that verges on horror, the realistic kind. Think Saw merged with I Know What You Did Last Summer and then put it in the hands of a phenomenal author and let him serve it to us on a literary plate. That brings you close.
But the way Carter intertwines this fast-paced thriller with several outlooks on modern civilisation truly floors me. It's not even subtle, or cloaked in mystery; the author gives us a very clear picture that clicks with the real world in a way that puts you in a state of self-reflection.
We take a look at the gullibility and apathy of human nature when something terrible happens to someone we have no emotions for. We've all seen internet trolls; we've all seen the harsh and often despicable comments posted online that a lot of us can't even fathom the motivation behind. One By One uses that, as the killer sets up a live feed on the web of a person trapped with two options on how they should die, you'd think no one would touch such a thing.
Especially when the public find out that it's real!
But no, they rack up thousands of votes within minutes, and watch.
And I can't separate that and keep it contained to fiction in my head, because, I have no doubt if it were real that it would play out almost identically.
There are also themes of choice and judgement. Society's penchant to pass an opinion on something even when they have little to no information is probably one of my favourite elements of the story. It's all magnificent.
Pace - 5/5 Stars
There is so much going on that it's a bonanza of blood and a myriad of mayhem. You're going to zoom through this novel. Carter has the structure down, always has. There are the juicy parts, the investigative parts, the action parts, the revelation parts, pretty much every kind of part you can think of and it's all expertly balanced.
Characters - 5/5 Stars
Robert Hunter, our protagonist, is now firmly #1 on my most favourite crime/thriller leads list (sorry Michael Bennett and all you other fantastic fictional souls!). I can't get past just how well he's written and portrayed. His intelligence and observation skills are off the charts, and while he can think and calculate like a machine, Carter evens him out with stoic emotions. I just love Robert Hunter! As his past comes in drips and the instalments stack up, he's just layer upon layer of freaking extraordinary.
Garcia also gets the spotlight with glaring intensity. One by One makes his and Hunter's case more personal than ever, and Garcia's wife Anna even gets dragged into the danger. I love their marriage, their honesty and connection. It comes as a nice twist, capitalising on the already rampant, and enjoyable, tension and suspense. And just as Garcia feels more a part of the plot than ever, it's this threat to those he loves that leaves us on a questioning note: Will he return to his job hunting serial killers?
Jesus... There are a lot of crime series where the characters say something along the lines of, 'This is the most dastardly killer ever!', with each and every entry. It's usually a grandiose gesture wholly dependent on whether or not the reader's subjective opinion matches the author's. Well, while I can't speak for everybody, Carter's crime collection might actually just pull it off. Each instalment so far has one-upped its predecessor (and most other thrillers).
All in all, a spectacular cast.
Writing - 5/5 Stars
Someone who can write with such confidence and imagination deserves respect. The way in which Carter portrays a vicious plot with some societal truths is jaw-dropping.
Writers-in-training (like me), take note!
Overall - 5/5 Stars
One by One is a novel that makes it mighty difficult for you to differentiate fiction from reality. Plus, there's no need to have read any of the books in this series before picking this one up.
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