Wednesday 5 April 2017

Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski

Published by Orenda Books on March 15, 2017

Six Stories is a book you will be hearing a lot about this year and rightly so. I’d seen lots of praise for this book before picking it up and from the blurb I already thought this was going to be a good book but I was wrong, because this is a stunning book, really breathtakingly good and unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s haunting to the level it completely got under my skin and I could do nothing but think about this book, devour every word on every page and turn them as quickly as possible so I could discover more. This is a murder mystery at heart but completely different to anything else out there.

I love reading something new, whether that’s a new-to-me author or a new genre, but Six Stories was new in the style it was written. In the late 1990s the body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found, a year after he disappeared, but all may not be as it seems. As twenty years later, investigative journalist Scott King is examining the case in the style of a series of podcasts. Six interviews with people who knew Tom or who were around when he died.

I’ve never read anything written in this manner before but I thought the format suited this book perfectly. There was just something about it that was so, so addictive and with every new detail I learnt I became more and more absorbed in the book until I had to ignore everyone and everything until I’d got to the end of this book. Six Stories is definitely a switch-your-phone-off, lock-your-doors kind of read, very much a do not disturb book as once you pick it up, it becomes impossible to even consider putting it down. There was a bit of a conversational feel to the book, not one that you’re a part of but one you’re listening into even though it feels a bit wrong and a bit intrusive, especially the further into the book you are where things become a bit more twisted. I found the style of writing really engaging and, as I wasn’t sure what to expect as to what we would learn about the mystery and any possible twists and turns, I found that I paid more attention to detail when reading and because of this I really became a big fan of the way the author writes and constructs a story.

The characterisation in this book is also something I really loved. The exploration into the mind-sets of teenagers (a scary place to be…) and their emotions and actions, why they act in certain ways, the angst, the way they feel and the way their minds work, all of this was fascinating and I thought the author drew upon this with each character realistically and thought-provokingly. There is an abundance of unreliable narrators here but the format of this book meant I didn’t really feel like I was going through the frustration of an unreliable narrator alone as Tom pulls the interviews together, fills in the odd gap by keeping us up to speed on what we know so far, whilst leaving many other gaps unresolved as the reader is in anticipation of the next interview. I liked how it was left for me to decide what I felt about each character and just how much I believed them. Nothing was black and white.

There was a sense of unease about everything when I was reading this book. I was enthralled and really interested in learning as much as possible about Tom and what happened to him. Parts of this book felt a bit like when you’re being told the same story by more than one person and each person twists things a little bit and recalls things differently. There’s always that doubt in my mind as to who to trust or what piece of each person’s telling of the story is the accurate version. I was always trying to work this out in Six Stories but never really had a clue what would be discovered.

The tension is on the verge of overwhelming in Six Stories. The author’s writing is extremely atmospheric and he paints such a vivid picture of Scarclaw Fell that I could completely imagine the creepy and eerie place. The atmospheric description made it all sound very spooky and intriguing. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a podcast before so I wasn’t sure how much this book would appeal to me but honestly it is such a brilliant book bursting with originality and an unforgettable mystery. Six Stories is a must-buy, a must-read and a book you must recommend to everyone you know because it is a book that deserves to be read, a truly unmissable read.

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