Tomorrow, I will be reviewing Beast, the fourth book in Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series, as part of the blog tour for that book. In anticipation, I thought I would review the first three books in the series here for you, as a little amuse bouche before the main course. I think this might be the first in a new occasional series where I catch up with the previous books in a series before reviewing the latest release. It occurred to me this might be a good way to try and reduce my TBR a bit, which was, after all, the founding aim of the blog!
One body. Six stories. Which one is true?
1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.
2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivaled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame…
As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth.
The first book in the series introduces us to the slightly unusual format of the series, which takes the form of a podcast where the ‘host,’ Scott King revisits an old crime with the aim of exploring whether the accepted public story is actually the true one. He does this by allowing six different individuals connected to the case to tell their story, and for the ‘listener,’ (us, the reader) to draw our own conclusions. Anyone who has listened to the phenomenally popular podcast, Serial, will get the idea (in fact, Matt references Serial in the book.) As I was a massive fan of Serial, this premise really drew me in and, once you get your head around this unique approach and separate in your head who is talking throughout the chapters, it works brilliantly.
The author has a fantastic way of creating a menacing and claustrophobic atmosphere as he sets the scene, so the reader is immediately on edge and drawn in to the horror story that is unfolding before their eyes. And it is a horror story, but one written in a unique way, balanced with a mystery and a thriller and an exploration of teenage friendship dynamics and personality traits that can be hidden beneath a benign facade. This book sets up the premise that continues as a connecting theme throughout the series – things are not always as they seem on the surface.
Once I got in to the rhythm of the storytelling, I was completely hooked on the story, the tension, the twists and turns, the unexpected revelations that are cleverly unfolded as we hear stories from each of the individuals which come from different perspectives, which divert the reader down one path, then another, drawing us through a maze until we reach the heart of the story.
It is so clever and fresh and gripping, I absolutely loved it and could not wait to read the next one.
Six Stories is available by following this link.
A family massacre. A deluded murderess. Five witnesses. Six stories. Which one is true?
One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the north west of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, father and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation.
King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was a diminished as her legal team made out.
As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden ‘games’, online trolls, and the mysterious black-eyed kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a murderess…
On to the second book in the series (which is actually a prequel) and a completely different case for Scott King. This time he has managed to secure an interview with a notorious murderess who slaughtered her whole family for a reason that no one can quite comprehend. Scott is keen to see if he can get to the bottom of a mystery that has evaded everyone else, why did Arla Macleod commit this crime?
Now I was used to the format, I got drawn in to the book much quicker than the first one and, partly for this reason, I enjoyed it even more. It is odd because there is no mystery as to who committed the crime as there would be in a normal thriller, there is no doubt Arla did it, but why? No one knows, we are desperate to find out. The method of slowly peeling back layers of the story as we move through the testimonies of six people connected to the case is genius. Add to this the fact that there are no witnesses to the crime save Arla herself, the ultimate unreliable witness locked in a mental institution, it is almost impossible to know what is the truth, who to believe and to get to the bottom of the story.
Parts of this book were completely terrifying, dealing as it does with risky online internet games that promise supernatural encounters and dangerous trials. There are also the constant references to BEKs (intrigued? You’ll have to read the book to find out what I am talking about!), I’ll admit I was completely wigged out and regretted reading parts of this book late at night. This book also had a jaw-dropping, did-not-see-that-coming moment and a fairly twisted ending, the whole thing was addictive from start to finish and I loved it even more than the first one. A book quite unlike anything you will have read before, an enticing mix of supernatural, horror, thriller and psychological drama. So unique, could not wait to read on.
Hydra is out now and you can get a copy here.
A missing child
A family in denial
Which one is true?
On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the dark Wentshire Forest Pass, when his father, Sorrel, stopped the car to investigate a mysterious knocking sound. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.
Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. Journeying through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there, he talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know what happened to the little boy…
You wonder how the author can make another book in the same format different to the first two when you get to book three, and having read the blurb, I did wonder if this was going to be similar to book one. It did have some similarities, as the setting of a menacing forest for the mystery has echoes of the first one, but the author has come on leaps and bounds since then and the tension and fear is ramped up to a whole new level here. Part of this is due to the victim in this story being a very small child, which will immediately strike terror in to the heart of any reader who is a parent. There again is the supernatural element, which strikes from the very early chapters of this book but, by now, the reader should have grasped the fact that there is always more to the story than first appears and we are lead down one track, only to have our ideas, our opinions, our whole understanding of the story turned a full 180 by the next narrator, and again, and again. You begin to feel as lost in the labyrinth of the truth as characters were lost in the vastness of Wentshire Forest.
Despite the fact that this is the third book in a series that follows the same basic format, it managed to surprise me in so many ways. The underlying themes of the book are very different to the first two, the intrigues and misdirection become more and more ingenious and complex, the book will leave you breathless and twanging with tension and you will marvel at the ingenuity of the author as he keeps you guessing to the final page. This is a book that shows an author who, far from running out of ideas, is just hitting his stride and obviously revelling in bringing something new and exciting to each instalment. I could tell from the writing that he is having tremendous amounts of fun with his work, but also that this book in particular deals with a topic that he has a personal interest in exposing and has been careful to portray accurately.
These books are something so different to anything else out there, are so exciting and detailed and just rewarding to read. I am totally hooked on the series and am delighted to be bringing you my review for the latest book tomorrow. Honestly, one of the best discoveries I have made since I started blogging and would encourage everyone to pick up these books to discover something really innovative.
Changeling is available for purchase here.
Make sure you come back to the blog tomorrow to read my review of Beast.
About the Author
Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is
an English tutor for young people in care.
Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013.
Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller.
Connect with Matt:
Website: Beyond The North Waves
Facebook: Matt Wesolowski