Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski

Six Stories
By Matt Wesolowski
Published by Orenda Books (E-book - 20 December 2016; Paperback - 15 March 2017)
ISBN: 9781910633625

Publisher's description
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 took 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 rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.

My verdict
As soon as I read the blurb for Six Stories, I was intrigued. But I have to admit that I began reading the book with some trepidation as I was worried that it wouldn't live up to my expectations.

My verdict? WOW! Not only did it live up to my expectations but it surpassed them.

Six Stories is unlike anything else I've read. It's current, fresh and skillfully delivered. There's a classic murder mystery to solve - the death of a teenager in 1996 and the discovery of his body a year later. Twenty years on, a leading investigative journalist is looking at the evidence and interviewing those who were present at the time. The way in which he is conducting his investigation (through a series of podcasts) is as modern as you could possibly get in the digital age.

When I read a book, I have to read whole chapters at a time. I can't stop a reading session in the middle of the chapter - call it a foible of mine! With Six Stories, I found myself reading a whole podcast at a time (including the previous chapter - you'll have to see why), so that I could digest the information and then think about what I had just read. Some of the podcasts are fairly long - not surprising as there are only six in the book. I also had to find time to concentrate without a risk of interruption, so read most of the book late in the evenings.

Six Stories is an eerie spine-tingling read. It's unpredictable and chilling and kept me guessing all the way through. I don't scare easily, but certainly found this book unsettling. Matt Wesolowski has built up a dark, atmospheric setting with his vivid descriptive prose. The voices were so distinctive that I felt like I was listening to a podcast rather than simply reading the transcript. I built up a picture of the people, relationships between characters and an amazing sense of place. It felt more like fact than fiction - and I had to keep reminding myself that Scarclaw Fell isn't real!

I'm not familiar with Serial, which is what Six Stories is being compared with, although I will now be checking it out. But I do feel this book will appeal to fans of the documentary Making a Murderer. In some ways, its horror element reminded me of the Blair Witch Project - it's what you can't see that's most frightening. Scarclaw Fell will remain with me - and I'll be thinking about what happened to Tom Jeffries - for some time.

Everyone will want to read this book - and should!

I received an Advance Reader Copy.