Book Number: N/A
Read this book for: innovative format, modern mystery, surprise ending, journalist investigator, suspense, whodunnit
Quick Review: Perfectly capturing the suspense and need-to-know tension of the true crime podcasts it’s modeled after, SIX STORIES is definitely one of this year’s must-reads for all crime fiction fans.
1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found a year after his disappearance at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced.
2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivaled 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.
SIX STORIES is the fantastic first novel by Matt Wesolowski published by Orenda Books, and it is based on the premise of a story told through a true-crime podcast like Serial. It’s really exciting to see a novel published in this format, given the success of Serial and other podcasts like it.
Wesolowski handles the style perfectly. The novel is laid out in an interesting alternation between the present-day perspective of the man who found the body of Jeffries and who owns the land, and dialogue-only episodes of the podcast as it would have been produced – and it is done so well that you can actually hear those episodes in your head as you read them. He does a great job of capturing the individual voices of the characters.
And the characters truly are special. There’s a diverse cast with many secrets – much like P.D. James’s novels – and they are extremely well developed. Much of the novel hinges on these characterizations, and SIX STORIES doesn’t disappoint, delivering well-formed, rich characters with deep backgrounds. In fact, the episodes with their dialogue are so well-written that you actually feel like you could sit down and have a conversation with these people yourself.
It’s good, too, that the characters are so well-crafted, as much of the plot hinges on them. This novel is not a police investigation; instead, it’s a deep-dive into the group dynamics among the teens involved in the disappearance of Tom Jeffries – their secrets and wishes, their thoughts about him and each other, and what was going on in their minds at the time. Save an interesting supernatural element regarding the legend of the beast that resides on the fell, the mystery and suspense in this novel come from the reader desperate to find out more about what was going on in the group, and how all of these elements could come together to result in the death of Tom Jeffries.
This is absolutely a novel you will not be able to put down once you start it. SIX STORIES is definitely going on my must-read list for this year!