Beast by Matt Wesolowski Orenda Books February 6th 2020
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…
Any novel by Wesolowski is like returning home, armed with the knowledge that you are in safe hands and guaranteed a nail biting, engrossing story.
I am always interested to see in what direction he will take us next, what more could he throw at his podcaster Scott King. What has become apparent is that Wesolowski’s imagination knows no bounds, his ability to think outside the proverbial thriller box never ceases to amaze.
Beast was no exception, it’s location the wilds of Northumberland, it’s subject rooted in the bloody legend of the Vampire, and the modern world of social media. I loved how Wesolowski seamlessly married the two together, his victim Elizabeth Barton, upcoming blogging star, left for dead in a local tower known for its connection to a vampire legend.
Who killed her was in no doubt, it was the why that Scott King questioned as his podcast interviewed six people close to the victim.
This is where the cleverness lay in Wesolowksi’s narrative, how he had honed Kings’s interviewing techniques, his questions both searching and non confrontational. I loved how he lulled his subjects into revealing more than they wanted, knowing when to ease off, when to lead.
The unravelling of Barton’s murder was slow, as King dug deeper, as he drew closer to her immediate family, her parents, her brother, all never what they seemed to the outside world, their true feelings and thoughts hidden behind steely facades that screened their insecurities and secrets. I can’t say I liked any of Elizabeth’s family, her parents bereft of love yet generous with material luxury. Jacob her brother, scarred by his upbringing and Elizabeth herself, selfish, and driven to gain fame at all costs that you began to question if she really was the victim.
The world of vlogging, of social media came under close scrutiny as Wesolowski challenged our perceptions, of the cruelty and division it could cause.
Yet, it was human nature, mental illness and the psychology behind decisions made, and the acts carried out by his characters that stood out. Wesolowski showed how a persons vulnerabilities could be manipulated, bent to another persons will, the consequences tragic and ultimately brutal.
And what of the weather, the stark brutality of the Beast From The East, the freezing arctic blast and snow that buffeted the north east and the rest of the UK. Wesolowski used it to great effect, the coldness that reflected a family bereft of love, the blanket of ice and snow that wrapped the town of Ergarth in its evil clutches, a town afraid, suspicious and uncertain.
The outcomes were not as you imagined, cloaked in jealousy, and revenge, but not regret, but a sense that justice was done, and the town could return to normality, whatever that might be.
Wesolowski’s success is undoubtedly his ability to weave a story, to stretch the bounds of human nature, explore its darkest depths, and psychology, to present them in a scintillating and intelligent form to his readers. Once again Wesolowski has delivered, the only question is where on earth will he take us next.
I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy of Beast to read and reviews and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author