1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced.
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.
A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.
Well…. where to start with this one!
A couple of weeks back, I went to the launch event for Six Stories hosted by Forum Books in Corbridge, and came away with a shiny new (signed!) copy of the book ready to add to my TBR pile. Well, that pile is about as tall as I am; but I just had to sneak this book in at the top – not only has there been a helluva lot of hype about it, Matt is a local lad from Newcastle! Say no more. I poured myself a nice glass of red (it felt appropriate for the genre), wrapped up in a blanket, and cracked open the book.
The format of Six Stories is unique, in that it is told in the form of six podcast episodes, in a style inspired by the true crime podcast Serial. Each of the podcasts features a different character who was some link to the night Tom Jeffries disappeared. The podcasts are broken up with monologues by Harry St. Clement Ramsey; son of the owner of Scarclaw Fell and the person who discovered Tom Jeffries’ body.
I was looking forward to finding out how a book that is predominantly active dialogue and conversation would work in terms of setting the scene and creating suspense – the answer is very, very well. If anything, only ever hearing the stories first-hand added even more suspense. The heavy folklore elements running through the book make you feel at times as though you have wandered into a ghost story – it is charged with atmosphere.
The reader benefits from the summaries that Scott King gives at the end of each podcast, piecing together the elements and links of each interview, adding layers to the story as we build up a picture of each character in our minds, until the final podcast knocks everything we thought we knew out of the water.
Wesolowski is a skilled writer, capable of pulling the strings of the atmosphere and orchestrating tension throughout the book. The descriptions of the wild, dangerous (and thankfully fictional) Scarclaw Fell could not do more to portray the sinister landscape in which Tom Jeffries met his end.
“It’s a dark, freezing night on Scarclaw Fell. The wind wails mournfully through the trees of the old forest and little bundles of sheep huddle together like balls of damp cotton wool. Frost freezes on the edges of the leaves, the trees glisten in the moonlight, and their branches caress the frozen earth like the withered fingers of some long-dead corpse.”
The haunting, chilling narrative draws to a clever and shocking conclusion that will leave your mind racing and have you questioning every detail you’ve read.
I am pretty certain that I will not be able to look at a fell in the same way again!
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. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. Six Stories was published by Orenda Books in 2016.