Elusive online journalist Scott King examines the chilling case of a young vlogger found frozen to death in the legendary local ‘vampire tower’, in another explosive episode of Six Stories…
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, the tragic and chilling legend of the ‘Ergarth Vampire’…
SIX STORIES IS BACK!!!! Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while or follows me over in Twitter-land will know that I LOVE Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series. His previous novels Six Stories, Hydra, and Changeling were all must-reads for me and, as my Best Books of 2019 list makes clear, Matt’s latest installment of the Six Stories series, Beast, is another absolute corker!
Combining the compulsiveness of the podcast-style format that makes the Six Stories series unique (think Serial but in book form) with a dash of the supernatural and a long, unsettling look at the modern phenomena of YouTube stardom and ‘Like’ culture, Beast has all the elements that made previous installments in the series such page-turning and suspenseful reads.
The plot this time centres on the brutal murder of young vlogger Elizabeth Barton. A bright light amidst the post-industrial poverty that blights the town of Ergarth, Elizabeth’s killing, seemingly at the hands of three local young men, appears to be the result of simple jealousy combined with madness and obsession. But, as always in Six Stories, once investigative journalist Scott King begins to dig a little deeper there is more to Elizabeth’s death than first meets the eye.
Why did someone cut off Elizabeth’s head post-mortem? Why does her death have shades of the legend of the Ergarth Vampire? What connection is there between this and Lizzie’s own ‘Dead in Six Days’ challenge? Who really locked Lizzie in the Tower?
So many questions but, as always, it will take six interviews and six different perspectives on events for the truth to become clear.
I am IN AWE of the way in which Matt Wesolowski controls the pace and tension in these books. Beast is so carefully plotted, with each strand of the mystery being gradually teased apart and placed into the light as the ‘episodes’ of the story progress. My theories about what really happened to Elizabeth Barton emerged, crystallised and were then shattered apart as new information came to light – a real edge-of-your-seat reading experience that had me racing through the book in less than 24 hours!
I am also consistently blown away by how Matt manages to make each of the voices in his Six Stories sound unique. From Elizabeth’s vapid babble on her vlog to the more sober voice of an elderly villager, the grief of Elizabeth’s parents, and the nervous chatter of one of her old school friends, each character really lives and breathes on the page. It was like I could hear them talking in my head!
I’m also a big fan of the way that Matt infuses each of his stories with just a dash of the supernatural. This is present in Beast through the story of the Ergarth Vampire, a seemingly impossible tale that has unexpected resonances in the present day. Without providing any spoilers, I really enjoyed the way in which vampire mythology was bought up to date and the way it causes the reader to reflect on the modern-day implications of ‘vampires’ walking amongst us.
The novel also tackles the contemporary issues of online friendships and influence head-on, examining the role of ‘influencers’ in a society increasingly dominated by online communication. What is uncovered is unsettling to say the least and may make you just a tad more aware of how the online personas we present to the world can be vastly different from the lives we actually live.
As you can probably tell, I LOVED Beast – this really is a series that just goes from strength to strength with each installment and fans of Matt’s work are sure to be delighted with this addition to the Six Stories series.
For anyone picking up the series for the first time, there’s definitely no reason not to start with Beast – there are a couple of minor nods (and slight spoilers) to the events of Changeling but the book works perfectly well as a standalone and is an absolutely cracking read. But why deprive yourself of the joy of the previous installments? Start with Six Stories and work your way forwards and you will not be disappointed!!
Pacy, suspenseful and with just enough menace to put shivers up your spine, Beast is a fantastic addition to an already exemplary series. So stop reading this review and go on out and read it!!
My thanks go to the publisher, Orenda Books, and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me onto this blog tour and for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review. The tour continues until the end of the month so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content!