Six Stories Paperback – 15 Mar 2017
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"Wesolowski is especially skilled at utilizing the setting to enhance a naturally suspenseful story … While those who enjoy the Serial podcasts will probably enjoy Six Stories as well, it's perhaps more notable for those who love classic mysteries. Six Stories offers a new style of mystery, one that encapsulates the twenty-first century, the Internet, and social media, even as its characters struggle to recall - or forget - a time before such things." - Foreword Reviews
"Wesolowski evokes the ominous landscape and eerie atmosphere of the area with sharp, direct prose." --The Big Issue
"A crime story, a psychological thriller, a coming-of-age story... Gripping, fascinating and wholly entertaining." --Random Things Through My Letterbox
About the Author
Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor and leads Cuckoo Young Writers creative writing workshops for young people in association with New Writing North. Matt started his writing career in horror and his short horror fiction has been published in Ethereal Tales magazine, Midnight Movie Creature Feature anthology, 22 More Quick Shivers anthology and many more. His debut novella The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013 and a new novella set in the forests of Sweden will be available shortly. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. He is currently working on his second crime novel Ashes, which involves black metal and Icelandic sorcery.
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This novel is, therefore, set out as six podcast episodes, interspersed with musings from Henry Saint Clement-Ramsey, who discovered the body of the victim near the Woodlands Centre, owned by his father at the delightfully named, Scarclaw Fell. The basic premise is that twenty years ago, the body was found of a missing teenager, who had been staying at the Woodlands Centre with a group called Rangers, which consisted of parents who visited the centre with children and teenagers, to introduce them to the wonders of nature.
Of course, as you can imagine, all is not as idyllic within the group as it appeared from the outside. One of the adults, Derek Bickers, whose daughter Eva was on that particular trip, has long felt blamed for events. Others, like local man, Haris Novak, were viewed with suspicion and, indeed, any of those interviewed could be suspects… As the podcasts continue we hear of the dynamics between the teenagers on that fateful visit, of what Henry and his friends were doing that night when they discovered the body of Tom Jeffries and of the rumours of the Beast of Belkeld, said to warn children from the dangerous fells.
This is a very original debut from author Matt Wesolowski. I will certainly look out for this promising authors new work and I enjoyed this very much. A must read for crime fans.
Hard to believe that this book is a debut because it is just so good. The writer must have been hiding away for years perfecting his craft, or he's a natural born writer. I suspect the latter applies.
Something that is known to most police officers or anyone connected to the legal profession is the disparity between eyewitness accounts to any event. This difference of accounts is the core of the narrative and builds up the tension, while we the reader tries to decide who was the guilty party and what exactly happened on a fateful night when a young man went missing, only for his body to emerge a year later.
A group of young people, The Rangers, some of whom have known each other for years via family connections gather every so often at a remote lodge to enjoy the countryside and their shared friendship. The dynamics of the group are altered with a tragic outcome when a troubled young man with a history of minor offending joins their group.
Some years later, each member of the group, plus the parent who organised the meet-ups, and the current owner of the land, gives their account of events leading up to the night one of them went missing via Skype to a Podcaster whose podcasts about the incident cause a resurgence in public interest, with the nation eagerly keeping up with the Six Stories and hoping to find out at last what exactly had happened.
In the background to this, almost as a sub-plot, is the belief that there was some ethereal, unwholesome, evil being roaming the area, a belief built up by local rumour and exaggerated scary tale telling that all adds to the spooky tense feel of the book.
I just wanted everyone to go away while I was reading this and leave me in peace to read it.
Outstanding 5***** from me.
Thanks to Orenda publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review
Don’t get me wrong, the loss of any life is tragic, particularly that of someone so young, as Tom Jefferies is just a teenager when he dies. But as the story unfurls you start to build a picture of a boy who was not as clean cut and tragically innocent as the portrayal of him at the time of his death would have you believe. You are also without sympathetic witnesses. With the exception of only one of the six interviewed as part of the podcasts, Haris Novak, a local resident who was originally suspected of the murder, a man who probably had as good a reason of any to want to hurt the boy, I struggled to feel anything for the then teenagers, now adults, who recount their stories to the journalist Scott King.
So it leaves me, in essence, in somewhat of a quandary. How can a story in which I felt only a mild sympathy for the victim, and in which the other characters often annoyed me by their actions, possibly capture my imagination?
And yet capture my imagination it did. And it did so by stealth, sneaky little beggar that it is. I was speaking to one of my fellow bloggers shortly after starting reading and she had described it as a slow build, something that took a little time to get into, but once she got going she loved it. And I can see what she meant. I think perhaps because of the styling of the book, individual interviews separated into podcasts linked by several interludes where we follow Harry Saint Clements-Ramsay, the person who found the body, whose father owns the land around Scarclaw Fell, it gets under your skin without you even noticing it. It attaches itself to you, infiltrates your mind, through the use of such simplistically effective and yet probing and descriptive narrative, and once it does, it doesn’t let you go, even at the end.
Now this is definitely a page turner, as in you will want to read onward without question. But like nearly everything else in this book, it is not a page turner in the traditional sense of the word. Once you start a podcast you will have to read to the end and whoa betide anyone daft enough to disturb you. However, because of the nature of the story, you can easily walk away at the end of one podcast and pick the book up again a couple of days later without losing track, much as you would expect if you were truly following the podcast series over the six weeks the book is set. It works perfectly this way and even when reading it as a transcript it feels so authentic. You are not following the story from discovery of the body to reveal of the perpetrator as you would in a traditional mystery. It is dialogue driven narrative as a podcast would be. It has only the occasional aside by Scott King as he explains the background to the investigation and the characters’ backstories, or even Harry as he revisits the very place which, on one cold, dark night, he and his friends made the gruesome discovery which changed everything. The majority of the story is told in the voices of these witnesses. All truly individual. All truly flawed.
It is the same story, told six times,from six different perspectives.
And yet it doesn’t get old. With each new podcast you are challenged on the assumptions you have made thus far. Each episode adds another layer of unsettling uncertainty to an already mysterious case. And the setting itself adds a layer of fear and apprehension. The old and decaying fell side activity centre which is at the heart of the mystery, and Scarclaw Fell itself. Atmospheric and isolated at best in the day and positively claustrophobic and menacing to the senses at night. A dark and mysterious wood, beset with legend of a mysterious witch or beast, perhaps designed to keep children away from the many dangerous and concealed mines around the fells. Or perhaps it is something more… sinister? There is certainly enough intrigue and foreboding in each and every one of these pages to rattle even the hardiest of readers and leave you with a growing feeling of unease.
So yes. This book crept up on me. Took me by surprise. Burrowed its way into my psyche. I don’t think for one minute it was what I had been expecting, and that is no bad thing. Not at all. I was certain, before the end, that I knew who was responsible. But I wasn’t prepared for what I read in those final pages. The perpetrator was not so much of a surprise. Their overriding motive perhaps better hidden than you may expect, but it was still not a complete surprise.
But that ending… Well, that ending was a surprise. It truly was. Well done Mr Wesolowski. A very nice sting in that particularly poisonous tale.
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