A Year of Orenda – Beast by Matt Wesolowski

Today it is my great pleasure to be sharing my thoughts on Beast, the fourth book in the Six Stories series by Matt Wesolowski and quite possibly my favourite to date. Mandie has been recently catching up on the series too and is loving it. Thank to publisher Orenda Books for a very early copy so I was able to devour the book over Christmas, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the tour. Here’s the important book stuff …

Source: Advance Reader Copy

About the Book

Elusive online journalist Scott King examines the chilling case of a young vlogger found frozen to death in the legendary local ‘vampire tower’, in another explosive episode of Six Stories…

In the wake of the ‘Beast from the East’ cold snap that ravaged the UK in 2018, a grisly discovery was made in a ruin on the Northumbrian coast. Twenty-four-year-old Vlogger, Elizabeth Barton, had been barricaded inside what locals refer to as ‘The Vampire Tower’, where she was later found frozen to death.

Three young men, part of an alleged ‘cult’, were convicted of this terrible crime, which they described as a ‘prank gone wrong’

However, in the small town of Ergarth, questions have been raised about the nature of Elizabeth Barton’s death and whether the three convicted youths were even responsible.

Elusive online journalist Scott King speaks to six witnesses – people who knew both the victim and the three killers – to peer beneath the surface of the case. He uncovers whispers of a shocking online craze that held the young of Ergarth in its thrall and drove them to escalate a series of pranks in the name of internet fame. He hears of an abattoir on the edge of town, which held more than simple slaughter behind its walls, the tragic and chilling legend of the ‘Ergarth Vampire…

Both a compulsive, taut and terrifying thriller, and a bleak and distressing look at modern society’s desperation for attention, Beast will unveil a darkness from which you may never return…

Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Googleplay | Apple Books

My Thoughts

I have been putting off reviewing this book. Why? Because I really don’t know what to write. Why? Because whatever I write, I am not going to do the book justice. End of story.

I do love this series. It is a highly original series of books, with the common thread of the narrator, or podcaster, Scott King, and the fact that each of the stories are told through a series of six podcasts. And that is where the similarity ends. Every single story has been unique, from the whodunnit styling of the original Six Stories, to the whydunnit of the dark and twisted, Hydra, up to now quite probably my favourite of the previously published books. Then there is the very personal, and chilling Changeling, which marks a turning point for protagonist King.

With Beast we are treated to something else again. Set against the backdrop of the ‘Beast from the East’ storm of a couple of years ago, this is a chilling (literally for the characters – figuratively for us) that feeds into the who idea of the internet generation and the new wave of ‘Youtube entrepreneurs’ who are famous, notorious even, for simply being online. Being a brand.

I love how Matt Wesolowski takes such a relevant and instantly recognisable subject and shakes it up. Moulds it into something far more powerful than the sum of its parts. We’ve all seen it happen – the whole concept of celebrity culture being dominated by reality stars, Youtubers, and Instagrammers. But is everything we see on screen, large and small, the whole truth, or does the smiles, the make up demos and self indulgent videos hide something far removed than the reality being portrayed? That is the question Scott Kind attempts to answer here. Was the victim in this story, up and coming instafamer and vlogger Elizabeth Barton, as great a victim as she is made out to be. What is the real story if you chip away the perfectly sculpted veneer?

I love the way in which Matt Wesolowski crafts his characters. He creates people who are so believable, so relatable, that it adds an authenticity to even the most unlikely of elements in this novel. From the sheep-like followers of Elizabeth Barton, who would do anything to simply be noticed, to the victims of this tragedy, not all of whom are instantly recognisable. He will take what you think you know and turn it on it’s head, highlighting the vulnerability in even the apparently darkest of souls. You will find yourself empathising with the most unlikely of people and questioning where the true guilt lies. It’s brilliantly poignant at times as well as satisfyingly dark.

Threaded into this tragic story of what ultimately amounts to murder, is the whole idea of mythology and legend that rivals and eclipses that of the “Wentshire Witch” or the “Black Eyed Kids” – that of the Ergarth Vampire. It is following a crazy ‘Dead In Six Days Challenge’ which ultimately leads to Elizabeth’s death, but is she the victim of a real vampires curse or something more tangible?

I love the way in which the author wove the legend of the vampire into the story, never once intimating the belief that the vampire really existed, but still creating that undercurrent of unease, the sense that someone believed it to be true, that made the hairs on my arms stand up on end. And who doesn’t love a vampire legend anyway, right? This is a dark and atmospheric novel, one where you can feel the intense chill of the legend and the storm enter your bones as you read. Matt Wesolowski really does transport you right into the heart of the story through his intense narrative, not allowing you to pause for breath until you reach the end of each breath stealing episode.

There is such a varied cast of characters in this novel, so once again prepare to have your beliefs and your surety of what is happening completely challenged. And prepare for some real surprises along the way as the author deals out those tale twisting milestone clues as only he can. It really is something special and despite the fact that the whole book is essentially divided into just six chapters – one per podcast – I never once felt like I wanted to step away from it, although I did have an overwhelming urge to kick the heating up, just a notch or two.

Dark, twisted, haunting, atmospheric and brilliant. An en-pointe observation of how a painful truth can be hidden behind the virtual insanity of modern life. And ultimately this is a cautionary tale. Be careful what you wish for. There are certain levels of infamy even Elizabeth Barton would not have aspired to.

Absolutely bloody brilliant. So chilling you’ll get freezer burn just picking up the book! And yes, despite that it gets a Red Hot Read from me. I loved it.

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.

Wesolowski started his writing career in horror and was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at ‘Bloody Scotland’; Crime Writing Festival 2015. His subsequent debut crime novel ‘Six Stories’ was published by Orenda Books in the spring of 2016 with follow-up ‘Hydra’ published in the winter of 2017 and ‘Changeling’ in 2018.

‘Six Stories’ has been optioned by a major Hollywood studio and the third book in the series, ‘Changeling’ was longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, 2019 Amazon Publishing Readers’ Award for Best Thriller and Best Independent Voice.

Author Links: Twitter | Instagram

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