My thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. As always, the decision to take part has been my own, and this review forms my honest opinion.
Continuing the unique, explosive Six Stories series, based around six podcasts comes 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…
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, and the tragic and chilling legend of the Ergarth Vampire…
Beast is the fourth novel in the, quite frankly, rather brilliant Six Stories series, and it follows on from Changeling, which I read and reviewed last year, indeed, I enjoyed it so much that it made my Top Reads of 2019 list. For that reason, I was quick off the mark to respond to the blog tour request for Beast!
Prior to reading Changeling, I had concerns over how I would connect with the story, given that it is delivered as transcripts for a podcast, taking the form of interviews with six people with differing perspectives. I had wondered if would feel removed from the action – I needn’t have worried, as I was utterly blown away. The writing was tight and full of suspense – I absolutely flew through it and rabbited on at friends and family to try it for weeks afterwards.
In Beast, successful vlogger Elizabeth Barton is the victim of a grisly murder, her body being found in the sinister ‘Vampire Tower’ which dominates the skyline of Ergarth, a small town on the Northumbrian Coast. Once more, Scott King, is drawn to investigate…..
Immediately I found myself utterly captivated, the lack of internalisation within the dialogue-led narrative is a huge plus-point, making the reader work harder to try and distinguish what is real and what actually happened. One thing that especially came through strongly is the sense of place. Ergarth and its community forms a huge part of the story, and it was so wonderfully depicted even without lengthy descriptions, that I felt as if I could see the town, its landscape and its residents in my minds eye. Equally, the key characters who don’t get to speak for themselves, or at least not in the direct sense, are created entirely through the eyes of others. I just find it the whole concept to be fascinating and I am in complete awe at how Matt Wesolowski delivers it so impeccably.
What I enjoyed most about Beast, however, was the way in which an old vampire legend comes to the fore in a social media craze in which Elizabeth partakes. It’s such an original idea, and I enjoyed both the fusion and the comparisons which are pulled on throughout. The ‘interval’ chapters, which feature Elizabeth as she posts her challenge videos are a wickedly accurate depiction of so many social media ‘stars,’ and the story as a whole really brings into question the authenticity of an online persona, the quest for the perception of perfection and the modern thirst for fame at any cost. It’s an interesting and thought-provoking blend of themes which are delivered perfectly.
I didn’t find Beast to be as chilling to read as Changeling, at least not in the outright fright stakes, which for me, as a complete scaredy-cat was of no issue or consequence (FYI: I still cannot walk through wooded areas alone) but I found this to be much more subtle; a creeping feeling which crawled and settled as I read, delivering a stark question to undermine the priorities and morals of an online generation.
A fantastic addition to an outstanding series of books. I cannot wait for book five!
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. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller.