A(nother) Year of Orenda – Deity by Matt Wesolowski

Today it is my absolute pleasure to share my thoughts on Deity, the fifth book in the Six Stories series by Matt Wesoloski. I have loved this series and each new instalment comes with a mixture of excitement and awe as this is a very special series of books. My thanks to publisher Orenda Books who provided an advance copy for review. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Advance Reader Copy

About the Book

A shamed pop star
A devastating fire
Six witnesses
Six stories
Which one is true?

When pop megastar Zach Crystal dies in a fire at his remote mansion, his mysterious demise rips open the bitter divide between those who adored his music and his endless charity work, and those who viewed him as a despicable predator, who manipulated and abused young and vulnerable girls.

Online journalist, Scott King, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the accusations of sexual abuse and murder that were levelled at Crystal before he died. But as Scott begins to ask questions and rake over old graves, some startling inconsistencies emerge: Was the fire at Crystal’s remote home really an accident? Are reports of a haunting really true? Why was he never officially charged?

Dark, chillingly topical and deeply thought-provoking, Deity is both an explosive thriller and a startling look at how heroes can fall from grace and why we turn a blind eye to even the most heinous of crimes…

My Thoughts

This book … It should come with a warning. After the celebrity scandals of the past few years this really does start to read like crime fact and not crime fiction at times. Matt Wesolowski has triumphed once again in what could well be his best Six Stories book yet. And that’s a pretty bold statement coming from me because I absolutely bloody adored Hydra and Beast, they really tapped into my darker, horror loving side. But this book … this book will have you feeling all manner of emotions. From disgust at the main premise of the story, to a strange kind of affinity for the charm of one of the central characters, and then back to an edge of the seat kind of trepidation and uncertainty because of the elements of the folklore style storytelling that the author weaves into the novel with his usual, inimitable, ease.

This is the story (six episodes of them actually) of Zach Crystal, a music Icon who was adored, revered even, by his fans, hated by his critics, and who became embroiled in a scandal before dying in tragic circumstances on the cusp of a major comeback tour. Told through the usual episodic format of the six podcasts, Scott King tries to get to the heart of a star he once idolised himself, to find out who, or what, was the real Zach Crystal. Each podcast is preceded by a soundbite from Crystal’s last televised interview, and each story brings a new perspective as to the true nature of this mysterious man.

It is not really that hard to see where Matt Wesolowski has drawn his inspiration from for this novel. You don’t have to look far back in history to find examples of rich and famous people whose altruistic and legendary reputations have been torn down after being accused of using their status and their money to abuse others. This is much the case for Crystal, a man accused of having perhaps too unhealthy an interest in the welfare of teenagers, largely girls, and whose charity, helping the underprivileged, has been called into question both before, and especially after, his death. When you read some of the early reports, get a feel for some of the chilling events that occur around Crystal, it is easy to understand why.

And yet … Matt Wesolowski has done such a brilliant job of writing Crystal’s character, has made him so utterly charming and genuine throughout the television interview that despite having that ounce of doubt in the back of my mind, I really did warm to the character. I, like many of his fictional fans, wanted King to prove the cynics wrong. I found myself so completely invested in Crystal and his story that I couldn’t pull myself away from the book at all. I had to know how it ended. I resented sleep, and work, for getting in my way. But there was still that doubt I mentioned earlier. Something a little too … strange about a grown man who hides away in the middle of a remorse and reportedly haunted forest and spends his nights sleeping in a custom built treehouse. Maybe you recognise the type? No pet monkeys called Bubbles that I recall, but there was definitely something not quite right about Crystal and his remote Scottish hideaway.

Now, this is no straight did he/didn’t he abuse scandal thriller – it wouldn’t quite be a Matt Wesolowski book if there wasn’t something just a little more supernatural about the story. Deity is no different to previous books in that it draws upon the kinds of folklore and legend that run rampant across our country, this time surrounding a haunted wood in the Cairngorms, and with a backstory that will send a shiver down the spine. It perhaps doesn’t have quite the chill factor of the BEKs from Hydra, but it certainly does make you think. It’s the kind of tale that grandparents tell small children to keep them from wandering off into the woods, and when put into the context of one of the grim discoveries revealed through the podcasts, is adds that anticipated dark element to the novel. And speaking of BEKs, there is a recurring character in this book who readers may recall from that very dark podcast …

This book really engaged me as a reader, making me think back over the reactions I have had to the various scandals over the years. The questions you ask yourself about whether it is still okay to listen to a Michael Jackson song say, knowing what you know know about allegations about their private lives, whether fully proven or not. Do you forego songs, movies, memories, that form an important part of your childhood to stand with the accusers, or do you give the accused the benefit of the doubt, knowing that they have no chance left to defend themselves. Whatever your feelings, believe me when I say that this book will leave you with no doubts about guilt or innocence at the end, but certainly plenty of emotions.

I know I say it often, but I put off writing this review as I didn’t know how to begin. I’m still not. sure I’ve really captured how brilliant and clever this book is now. Packed with the trademark atmospheric and almost cinematic imagery, characters who will challenge your emotions and have you changing your feelings about Crystals guilt a dozen times or more, and a story that is so topical that feels like it is ripped from the headlines, if you love the Six Stories series, you absolutely need to read it. This guys is a genius writer and it’s stag-geringly brilliant. Definitely recommended and you know it is getting one of these …

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.

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