Book Review: Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski

SixStoriesAbout the Book

1997 – Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an Outward Bound center. 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. 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.

Format: ebook (280 pp.)    Publisher: Orenda
Published: 1st December 2016      Genre: Crime

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My Review

It’s a few weeks since I finished Six Stories, a book I’ve been looking forward to reading for a while.  I wouldn’t usually wait this long before writing a review but I’ve found myself having conflicted feelings about the book.  Partly this is because it’s had tons of glowing reviews, many from book bloggers I respect, which made me wonder if I’d missed something as I found myself not blown away by the book as much as I expected, or as much as others clearly have been.

The first of my many quandaries was whether the idea of a book that apes the format of a podcast  – at least most of the time – is either brilliantly innovative or flawed.  The idea of a podcast investigating unsolved murders is clearly not original and even the book blurb acknowledges the debt Six Stories owes to the wildly successful (although previously unknown to me) Serial podcast (which as it happens is about to start Series 3 soon).   The character Scott King of Six Stories even has the same initials as the creator of Serial, Sarah Koenig

I’ll admit the author works hard to create convincing and distinctive dialogue for each of the people Scott King interviews as part of his investigation of the crime.  However, because we’re reading the words rather than listening to them, the author has to interject facts that would be obvious to a listener, such as that a character has a ‘high voice’ and ‘a distinctive way of talking’ and at a couple of points has to clarify to the reader the identity of a speaker.  Perhaps the experience of listening to the book as an audiobook would address this but shouldn’t a book work in either format?

I also found myself getting a little bored with the amount of time spent questioning the various characters about the dynamics of the group, although the reason for that fixation does become understandable at the end of the book.  Ah, the twist and the ending…  I did actually have a suspicion about the nature of the twist for quite a while although I’ll admit I didn’t get it completely right.   I also found some of the scenes at the end frankly a little weird.  As for the revelation of the culprit, let’s just say I couldn’t see the person having the intelligence to carry off what they were supposed to have done.

Having said all this, the book did keep me wanting to turn the pages to discover the solution to the mystery so the author definitely succeeded in that respect.  Now perhaps you can see why I feel so conflicted about this book.  Would I read another book by this author? Probably.  It has definitely made me want to take a listen to the Serial podcast.

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In three words: Imaginative, compelling, twisty

Try something similar…Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (read my spoiler free review here)

Matt WesolowskiAbout the Author

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care and leads Cuckoo Young Writers creative writing workshops in association with New Writing North.

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.

Six Stories has been optioned for a TV series by Fox Searchlight and the third book in the series will be available in early 2018.

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