Book Review: Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski

SIX STORIES (SIX STORIES BOOK 1)

Author: Matt Wesolowski

Publisher: Orenda Books

Release Date: December 2016

Six Stories is the opening instalment of the stomach-churning podcast series produced by secretive online journalist Scott King. 20 years on from the notorious death-by-misadventure of teenager Tom Jeffries – at an outward bound centre located on Northumberland’s Scarclaw Fell – the enigmatic King tracks down the key figures who knew Tom, and attempts to unravel the truth about the boy’s demise. As the interviews unfold, the host finds himself exploring the sinister legends that hang like a shroud over the ill-fated location, and realises that nothing is quite what it seems. Will King uncover the truth, or will his questions just churn up rotten grievances?

After enjoying Changeling (the third book in the ‘Six Stories’ series) last year, I wanted to go back to the source, and see where it all began. The eponymous series opener represents a blistering opening salvo, and did not disappoint. Wesolowski serves up an effortless blend of the supernatural and the mundane, and in Six Stories toxic friendships and grisly folklore are intertwined like drunken teenagers in a bunk bed.

While the podcast set-up offers a quirky narrative hook, Six Stories is a gritty, disturbing thriller that excels with its well-observed, convincing characterisation. The author takes a deep dive into the histories and motivations of a disparate collection of protagonists, and the characterisation is well-observed and convincing throughout. (Note: while I’m loathe to mention lockdown in a book review, the combination of socially distanced interviews and an exploration of ominous rural landscapes also felt weirdly appropriate in a post-COVID world!)

Six Stories is riveting and horrifying in equal measure, and I look forward to checking out the other books in the series.

Review by Tom Leins

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