One by One by Chris Carter
Detective Robert Hunter of the LAPD’s Homicide Special Section receives an anonymous call asking him to go to a specific web address – a private broadcast. Hunter logs on and a show devised for his eyes only immediately begins.
But the caller doesn’t want Detective Hunter to just watch, he wants him to participate, and refusal is simply not an option. Forced to make a sickening choice, Hunter must sit and watch as an unidentified victim is tortured and murdered live on the Internet.
The LAPD, together with the FBI, use everything at their disposal to electronically trace the transmission, but this killer is no amateur, and he has covered his tracks from start to finish. And before Hunter and his partner Garcia are even able to get their investigation going, Hunter receives a new 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.
When it comes to crime and thrillers it makes sense to grab a reader’s attention from the very first page. One by One certainly achieves this as it hits the ground running. Within a handful of pages, the main character, Detective Robert Hunter, is already going toe to toe with a deranged psychopath.
Hunter is a solid protagonist. Intelligent, driven and inquisitive, he is exactly what you would look for in an investigator. As the plot unfolds you quickly realise his partnership with Detective Carlos Garcia has a nice air of familiarity about it, you get a sense that these two men would always be there to back one another up. The author takes the time to establish realistic reactions and genuine motivations to drive the pair forward.
Hardly a surprise, but I’ll say it anyway, the crimes in One by One are pretty damn gruesome. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling anything for any potential reader all I will say is Euuuuwwww! Seriously though, those with a squeamish/nervous disposition be warned that things do get quite graphic. Personally though, I liked the diabolical methods and torture devices that the killer employs. Yes, they are perhaps a bit Pit and the Pendulum crossed with Saw, but once you discover the reasoning behind what is going on they make perfect sense.
Carter has a direct, punchy writing style and the chapters just whizz by. Each chapter tends only to be between three or four pages long. The entire novel is around five hundred pages in length so there are over one hundred chapters. I’ve come across this sort of structure in novels before, mostly thrillers. The short, sharp shock approach lends itself well to a story that is essentially a race against time. It ramps up the sense of urgency and keeps you guessing what’s going to happen next.
A little internet research confirms that there are already four books featuring the character of Robert Hunter before One by One. The good news is that Carter doesn’t dwell too much on any events that have happened before. There are just a few throw away lines that I suspect allude to previous investigations, but not much more than that. The story is quite self-contained and I never felt that I was missing out having not read the other books. If anything, based on my experience with this novel, I wouldn’t be averse to reading more of Chris Carter’s back catalogue.
I enjoyed One by One. I got caught up in the plot very easily. More importantly it held my attention for the duration. There is something wonderfully sinister about the way it taps into the Big Brother mentality of reality television, and internet stardom. Over recent years it feels like the viewing public have become more desensitised to violence, and more voyeuristic. The premise of this story explores that idea, and follows it to its natural, if somewhat dark, conclusion. It reads like some twisted variation of Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame flipped squarely on its head.
This is perfect escapism for those who like their crime thrillers decidedly dark and fast paced.
One by One is published by Simon and Schuster and is available from 15th August.