Beast by Matt Wesolowski #BookReview #BlogTour

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…

Both 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…

I'm thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for Beast today. Many thanks to Matt Wesolowski, Orenda Books and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

For newcomers to Matt Wesolowski's dark and chilling Six Stories crime series, each book features Scott King examining a murder case by interviewing various people somehow connected to it; each of their accounts forming an episode of his 'Six Stories' podcast. Although he refers back to previous investigations, the novels can all be enjoyed as standalones (although they should probably come with a warning because this is a seriously addictive series!)
After the emotional and very personal conclusion to Changeling, King returns to his more familiar role as detached inquisitor here. However, he no longer hides behind his anonymity which allows for intriguing comparisons between his own circumstances and those of Elizabeth Barton, the young woman whose death he is investigating. While Scott has accepted that he has become more widely recognised by the public, Elizabeth Barton actively sought the attention which may have eventually led to her death. He comes to Ergarth, a deprived small town on the Northumbrian Coast where the overriding impression is of a poverty of hope; a forgotten place where children grow up with few opportunities to escape. Even the local landmark - the Tankerville Tower is a desolate, crumbling blight that residents want to have torn down. However, it is also the site of the creepy vampiric story - or stories - which give Ergarth its sense of self, and the Ergarth Vampire is at the dark heart of the events which led to the young vlogger's tragic death.
One of consistent highlights of the Six Stories series is the way in which Matt Wesolowski juxtaposes the terrifying folkloric tales and myths which evolve over generations with the contemporary darkness which looms over society, forcing us to question whether it's the supernatural stories or the horrors of real-life which are more frightening. Elizabeth was an upcoming social media star who thrived on likes and attention, so it's not surprising that she took part in the DISD (Dead in Six Days) Challenge. Internet challenges are nothing new of course, from the fairly innocuous Ice-Bucket Challenge to the stupidity of the Tide Pod Challenge, to the more disturbing Momo and Blue Whale Challenges, there are always chances for people to reach the supposed pinnacle of online achievements by going viral after taking part in one of these 'games'. The DISD Challenge bears disturbing similarities to Blue Whale and Momo and although it is fictional, it's entirely believable and only too easy to accept that people would be desperate to take part, despite its sinister name.
It's no spoiler to say that after receiving text messages which purportedly come from a vampire offering up increasingly difficult tasks, Elizabeth really does end up dead in tragic circumstances. Three local men have been found guilty of causing her death and so Scott King isn't trying to find out who did it but rather what led them - and her - into making such devastating choices. As he listens to various accounts of the days leading up to her death, the podcast format of the story allows readers to follow his attempts to gain a clearer idea of what really happened. Also interspersed throughout the book are transcripts from Elizabeth's YouTube videos which see her enthusiastically describing her exploits while cheerfully imploring viewers to like, comment and subscribe. It's a starkly convincing representation of the online influencers who carefully curate their lives for public consumption but at what cost? As the book progresses, a depressing picture is painted of modern life where the smoke and mirrors aspect of Instagram, YouTube, etc is overlooked as people accept, encourage and desire the attention and validation of those likes and follows.
Beast is chilling in every sense of the word; the 'Beast from the East' weather system which brought Ergarth to a frozen standstill in the last days of Elizabeth's life means the town feels even more claustrophobic and although we know that she cannot escape her fate, there is still an overwhelming sense of grim tension prior to her death. The bleak revelations about what really happened to her  - and why - are a shocking indictment of a society which continues to confuse consumerism and transitory attention with genuine human connections. Matt Wesolowski brilliantly penetrates our concerns and fears about the power of social media in this superbly unsettling tale of manipulation and obsession, and Beast is probably my favourite book of the series so far. Very highly recommended.

Beast is published by Orenda Books, publishing links can be found here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

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. Changeling, book three in the series, was published in 2019 and was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year and shortlisted for Capital Crime’s Amazon Publishing Reader Awards in two categories: Best Thriller and Best Independent Voice.


Post a Comment