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Six Stories: A Thriller (Six Stories Series) Kindle Edition
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Just from the blurb the setting, Scarclaw Fell, made my skin crawl. The author instantly creates such a chilling atmosphere I actually felt physically cold while I was tucked up under my duvet reading. The great outdoors of the Fell - it's brooding darkness and wildness, it temperamental and ever-changing mood is the perfect environmental setting. For me, the place entirely matched the themes of this book.
The body of a teenage boy, Tom Jefferies, is discovered a year after he went missing on a trip to Scarclaw Fell. What follows is a case of discovery, but in a fairly unique way. The reader is not taken on the journey via the police investigation, which by the time we enter the story is already done and dusted. It is not the story of Tom's family trying to find out what happened to their son. It is not a journalist, the story and its potential sensation has already been put to bed.
Instead it is a pod-caster, Scott King, who just enjoys pulling together information of mysterious events of cases that have been closed. What the reader is then presented with are the facts of the night - through the eyes of people involved and or close to the deceased. Meaning - extremely unreliable narration - which is the for the reader, or listener should I say, to decide how much is accurate when almost everyone closely involved had an agenda and at the time was an angst ridden teenager. But don't get me wrong this isn't one of those frustrating novels that you can't find an anchor point to cling on to because we have the neutral insight of Scott King himself. The voice of King summarises the facts giving opinions from both sides of the coin, always leaving the reader / listener to draw their own conclusion.
The unusual penmanship of the novel with its original structure and style, I didn't know if I would get on with at first. Could I read a book in the style of a script of a pod-cast? Would it get annoying? The answer no, I quickly realised it didn't matter. What you have is a really good story, told really well. With the multiple viewpoints the script is kept varied and pacey even though it is the same story told by six different voices and always moving the plot forward. I enjoyed the summary sections at the beginning and the end of each pod-cast by King and being taken to the present day with Scarclaw Fells owner and body finder Harry.
For me this novel reminded me of The Blair Witch project, where things not happening and dark issues being alluded to but not shown in graphic detail are actually more frightening than anything else.
I loved the ending of this novel and felt it stayed true to the author's intent. Six stories is a distressing tale looking at extreme ends of teenage group dynamics and parenting issues to name but a few of the things it touches on, whilst telling the story of what happened to Tom Jefferies on that fateful night in 1996.
In the next paragraphs, we will take a look at a book who has not left readers indifferent. For the past weeks, its cover has been spotted all over the blogosphere. We will try to understand and discuss the reasons behind its success.
Readers seek originality. After reading a few books from the same genre, one can become jaded with the same patterns being used over and over again. A usual example is the old investigator in crime stories with a tendency to drink his lack of life and dozens of problems in whisky. The best books manage to surprise you with a fresh idea, or a different take on an old idea. A few twists and surprises, a good cast, the right combination of elements satisfy the avid devourers of stories. But few authors manage to find originality with a giant O. The one that will make readers go crazy and dash to the nearest bookstore / book selling website to experience the novelty.
Matt Wesolowski has found the key combination to create a chilling and unique story to capture the essence of betrayal, appearances, and truths.
Episode 1: The Format
Welcome to Chocolate’n’waffles. I’m Donna.
In this first paragraph, we’ll take a look at what struck me first as the most appealing side of this story.
A podcast format. I love podcasts, I listen to the news in the car, to book-related podcasts while blog-hopping, and a podcast about happiness every Wednesday. But podcasts means voices, they mean an audio file. So of course, when I heard about a book built on a series of podcasts, I was curious. Because the thing, it could have missed its target. You need a writer who knows what he is doing to be able to put on paper the husky voice, the stammering, the hesitating of someone who is recalling an event or just talking about themselves. I never thought writing and talking, two ways of communication, would ever collide, but Matt Wesolowski created the perfect blend. I could imagine every different voice, I could hear every emotion as if they were coming from my headphones, and most of all, I could connect to the story behind. I became a listener of Six Stories, waiting for every new episode, trying to figure out what I was hearing, what connection or what detail would be revealed next. I became addicted to those minutes of dissection of a crime. I was a hooked listener with the need to know. Six Stories, by its format only, screams originality and oozes novelty and appeal.
This has been Donna at Chocolate’n’waffles raving about an author’s ability to capture voices on paper.
Until next paragraph…
Episode 2: The Characters
Welcome to Chocolate’n’waffles. I’m Donna. Right now, we will take a look at the heart of the story: its characters.
Even when you have the perfect cooking set, you still need the best ingredients to rustle up the perfect dinner. In order for the format to work, you need to offer good enough material to keep your readers, or should I say listeners, interested. You need a full cast, unique voices, clever manipulators and sweet and trusting guests at your table. You need strong links between them all, some visible, others for you to discover.
A dead teenager in a remote area. His body found after a year. Decades later, a journalist decides to interview the people involved in the case. Only the truth can come up, right?
The podcast format allowed me to meet every character through their own words and Scott King’s assessments. I could make my own opinion on what I was hearing and I just felt I was right there in front of every guest, hanging on to every word. There was no showing, only telling. Different conversations on the same events through eyes not always keen to dig up old stories, different versions of events told by different personalities and memories. Every new episode brought me a different light on a character I thought I had figured out during the previous episode. I was on my toes, trying to find the truth lying under the lies, making my way through an old case by holding the hand of a different protagonist in every episode. Being able to hear their voices in my head made me connect to some of them, made me feel sorry, angry, confused. The author made its characters feel real, for each word, each opinion, each hypothesis, felt genuine. I was eagerly listening to a bunch of adults recalling their teens years and the black cloud that had changed their lives forever, I was relishing in the stones being turned and the mud explored. The author awoke the blood-loving side inside of me, leaving me with no choice but to seek for the truth, even if it meant digging up the worst.
Groups have rules, a leader, followers, outcasts. Every episode of Six Stories creates a picture told by adults about their younger selves, leaving the listeners/readers wondering just who and how much they can trust, and how many bonds, quarrels, laughs, and disasters are left in silence, or told in purpose. We all know groups are tricky to dissect and understand. This particular group has all you need to keep you hanging to your book, scrambling at the pages to try and see through them.
I haven’t named anyone here and I won’t in the rest of the review because discovering those characters is the main reason for this story to be told.
This has been Donna at Chocolate’n’waffles praising an amazing array of characters you can only discover by letting your eyes fly on the paper and your ears catch the sound of their voices.
Episode 3: The Story
Hello, this is Donna on Chocolate’n’waffles, digging for the last time around Six Stories as much as she can without giving her readers any spoilers that would ruin the amazing experience that is this book.
For a format and characters to mix, you need a storyline that fits. Crime. Crime is a good choice. I admit I had never heard of crime stories discussed in podcasts. Now I am very interested in this and will research the matter. I find it crazy not to have thought about it before when I think of the number of real-crime shows my mother forces me to watch. I’m digressing here. Must be the format!
An old case, a chilling setting, a group of teens. Anything could happen. Something did happen. Now the magic of this plot is that it offers the readers/listeners drops of information they can never be sure of. Are the characters relatable? Are appearances what they seem? Are memories to be trusted? We are used to a hundred questions stuck in our heads with every crime story, but this time, we don’t witness actions, we hear about them, and you can only rely on bit of recollections, impressions and old feelings that left me with a constant feeling of details being left in the dark, because let’s be honest, no one tells the entire truth when they are involved, and the mind only allows you to remember what it wants you to. This helped build a tension I thought could never be summoned by a simple and harmless podcast. I was left in doubt all the way, crossing statements and looking for answers to questions that were left hanging in the air.
The fact this story doesn’t involve the police at all is genius. A journalist picks a story and takes a look at everything and everyone, giving the book a false impression of detachment. I will always be drawn to the journalistic edge but Matt Wesolowski took it to a different and very satisfying level.
The chapters are split between the interviews and a narration that takes you right where the worst took place and I was comforted in my choice to dislike camping and the outdoors in general. The frightening descriptions make the setting of the crime absolutely creepy and turns a beautiful but dangerous place into an eerie and living location. The place literally breathed and I could smell its fetid odor emitted from the pages.
As the story unfolded, I just couldn’t stop reading and was so happy to be spared the wait for another episode.
A dead teenager, a body found a year later, in itself, this doesn’t sound original, don’t you think? Well, think twice. This story is not what it seems. Nothing is what it seems here, and readers will be left surprised, gasping, shocked and asking for more.
This was Chocolate’n’waffles last episode of her only written podcast created to tell readers to use their eyes and ears and prepare themselves for one of the most unique tale they will ever get the chance to read, or better, hear. If there is one thing Six Stories is, it is marvelously original and dark. That makes two things, but my podcast, my rules. Now I’ll say this, don’t miss out on this book!
This has been Donna for Chocolate’n’waffles.