Today it is my absolute pleasure to join the blog tour for Six Stories the brilliant debut novel by Matt Wesolowski and yet another unique find by Karen over at Orenda Books. Before I share my thoughts with you, here is what the book is about.
The Official Book Blurb
One death. 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 rivalled 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. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.
Now. I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about just how to begin this review and, in truth, trying to decide quite how I felt about the book as a whole. Make no mistakes. This is not your typical murder mystery book. There is no investigation as such, no Detective making suppositions or anyone necessarily trying to wrong foot a suspect into implicating themselves. In fact, there is no definitive urge or resolve to solve the case at all. There is no fast action sequence to get the heart pumping faster and it also lacks the things that often draw a reader into a book; a single central protagonist that you engage with or even a sympathetic victim.
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.
A very creeping, slow building and tantalisingly surprising read. 5 stars.
My grateful thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for providing the copy of Six Stories and inviting me to take part in the blog tour. It is available to purchase now from the following sites. As well as the stunning paperback, you can also get it in audio book format with no less than 17 individual narrators. 17! I’m an audio book addict and I have to be honest, this would be the perfect book to listen to, so don’t be surprised if it suddenly makes its way into my Audible shopping basket some time soon.
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.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @
Why not stop by one of the other fab blogs taking part in the tour.