Welcome to the nbmagazine.co.uk stop on the blog tour for Beast by Matt Wesolowski!
Here’s a little info about the book:
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. 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…
And about author Matt Wesolowski:
Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care.
Wesolowski started his writing career in horror and was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at ‘Bloody Scotland’ Crime Writing Festival 2015. His subsequent debut crime novel, Six Stories, was published by Orenda Books in the spring of 2016 with follow-up Hydra published in the winter of 2017 and Changeling in 2018.
Six Stories has been optioned by a major Hollywood studio and the third book in the series, Changeling was longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, 2019 Amazon Publishing Readers’ Award for Best Thriller and Best Independent Voice.
And here’s Paul Burke’s review of Beast:
Anyone familiar with the Six Stories series will know that Wesolowski’s writing is original and contemporary, it’s also insightful of human nature and that’s it’s real strength. The way he interweaves legend and folklore, beliefs and local character into his contemporary tales reveals the way the past and the landscape say something about us, our thoughts and actions.
Very few authors have the ability to create atmosphere in a story that way Wesolowski can. To be immersed in the mood of the novel so completely is thrilling. This is a gripping tale, whether it’s better than its predecessors: Six Stories, Hydra and Changeling is something for each reader to decide but what struck me most about Beast was the development in the personal story of Scott King podcast investigator. Over the course of the Six Stories novels his exploration of violent and opaque crimes has revealed much about himself, from detachment, attraction and fascination with the crimes explored, to involvement, survival (Changeling is very personal), and burgeoning understanding of the darker side of life. Scott chooses the murder of Lizzie B. because of the renewed publicity, assuming that this is something he can investigate, in the open now that he has faced his demons, but without the involvement that comes from being part of the things going on. He’s mistaken, he doesn’t fully understand the things that drive his quest.
The six accounts of events that led to the death of a young woman in Beast provide nuance and depth to the tale but the perspective that Scott brings reflects his own story, he is also our way into the story, our way of exploring how we feel about events, what we think is being uncovered. This is emotionally involving and intellectually stimulating. More than ever the involvement of Scott King brings Beast alive for the reader, he is our guide.
Contradictions are what makes murder stories credible. You know something is a conspiracy when the details all tally not when some accounts appear to differ; memory, prejudice, interpretation, perception. On the other hand the differing accounts in Beast begin to reveal more of the truth around the death of Lizzie B. Scott King is looking into the murder for the ‘Why?’ The most important question for society. Even if this was a prank gone wrong there has to be more to it, yet, surely no one believes that Lizzie could be a vampire?
Opening a novel with the weather can be a bit of a cliché or a challenge for an author. Wesolowski uses it to brilliant effect in setting the mood for this dark, bleak, isolating and chilling tale. Fans of the Six Stories series will know that Wesolowski is a master at creating a tense, spooky atmosphere in his books, never better realised than here in Beast. The Beast from the East, the sudden cold snap that threw Britain into turmoil, panic and shutdown in 2018, is at the heart of this novel:
26th February, 2018. The Beast from the East, a ‘polar vortex’, has hit, everywhere is covered in snow and it’s freezing outside. Lizzie B is a vlogger, (a video blogger), people follow her for her shopping hauls and unboxing videos, she has over 3,000+ subscribers. She’s never been more popular than she is now, her latest post has over 200,000 views. She will just fall short of a million on the day she dies. It’s all about the DISD challenge, Dead In Six Days, of course it’s not real, at least that’s what she thinks;
“So in six days, I’m going to meet a vampire.
That vampire is going to kill me.
I’m going to die in six days’ time.”
Lizzie talks to her followers as she rings a number she’s been given, the vampire will send a challenge, (a prank). The Lizzie has to complete the challenge, post it on You Tube and pass on the number to the next ‘player’ to avoid the severest of forfeits. If Lizzie fails to complete the task in any way she will face a harder challenge, and so on for six days. Failure means meeting the vampire and death. Lizzie lives for the validation of social media, she’s in her element when she can tell her followers that the vampire has replied. Lizzie momentarily queries how the vampire knows her name, but soon forgets that in the excitement. The challenge is easy enough though; “play lurky in the dene”. So hang about in Ergarth Dene in the snow, hardly challenging. A reminder comes from the vampire failure to follow the instructions to the letter means death. Liz signs off with her followers, after reminding them to tune in to the next broadcast, and subscribe and click ‘like’. Lizzie is a young woman revelling in her popularity online. Keep sending the love.
2020. Matthew Manning for BBC News in Ergarth at the home of a grieving family. Someone has spray painted: ‘Who locked Lizzie in the tower?’ on the Barton family garden wall. Twenty-five year old Elizabeth Barton was found murdered inside the thirteenth century cliff top ruin, Tankerville Tower, two years ago. Lizzie had accepted a bizarre internet challenge, she froze to death in the windowless fortress after being locked in. The graffiti has renewed interest in the case but it’s open and shut, the murderers were caught at the time. Liz’s schoolmate, Solomon Meer, is serving a minimum thirty-three year sentence for murder, his collaborators, Martin Flynn and George Meldby, got twelve years for conspiracy to murder. The evidence against the young men came from a recovered telephone video where the three are standing over the dead girl. Meer is heard to say: “what have we done?” The murder was described as a prank gone wrong but one macabre detail stands out, Lizzie was decapitated post-mortem, an apotropaic practice in post medieval Poland to stop vampires rising from the dead. Most local residents bemoan declining moral standards but a few wonder if there might be something in the graffiti. Does anybody think that Liz was a vampire?
Scott King’s true crime podcast takes six perspectives on a crime, usually a cold case. The case is laid out anew for the podcast audience. Scott who used to stay in the background became the focus of his last podcast and now conducts interviews in the open, no longer hiding from his ‘monsters’. As Scott prepares for the interviews on this case he muses on the pleasure of handling such a straightforward case, not to be involved, to be detached and impartial, just to provide an account for the podcast. To shed some light on the why? The who and the how are obvious, or are they?
Accounts contradict each other, not everyone sees Lizzie the same way. Is the motive mundane, or is this story about good and evil? There is so much more going on than meets the eye in the beginning. The sense of unease over the things hiding in the shadows is almost palpable. The tower has a bloody history, the legend of a beautiful tragic prisoner murdered more than a century before.
Wesolowski distinctive style, the Six Stories format; vlogging, podcast, works very well, this is superb storytelling, creepy and gripping.
Beast by Matt Wesolowski
Orenda Books 9781913193133 pbk Feb 2020