Review: Beast, by Matt Wesolowski

Continuing the unique, explosive Six Stories series, based around
six podcasts comes 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

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, and the tragic and chilling legend of the Ergarth Vampire…


My Review

Thanks to Karen, Anne and Matt for my copy of this book. I will be bringing it to Southwell a week Thursday for signing. And probably leaving with the first three books…

Elizabeth Barton is murdered during the ‘Beast from the East’ storm of February/March 2018 in a forbidding tower in Ergarth, North Eastern England. A year later, Scott King, presenter of the podcast Six Stories is drawn to Ergarth to investigate after graffiti is painted on her parents’ fence.

Who put Lizzie in the Tower?

That line reminds me of ‘Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?’ – referring to a war time murder in the Black Country. However, in Ergarth they know who killed her. The young men have already been punished and imprisoned. A prank gone wrong, three jealous ne’r-do-wells punishing a beautiful, clever woman.

The novel takes the form of transcripts of YouTube videos and podcast episodes, exploring the real story. Over six episodes Scott discovers the true Elizabeth Barton, the manipulation of the three young men accused of her murder and the revenge taken by two of her victims. The story of the Ergarth Vampire is woven into the narrative although no one actually believes in the vampire. The vampire is a metaphor for people who take from others without giving back.

I sat and read this novel in 6 hours in the middle of the week. Stayed up way past my bedtime because I needed to know who was behind it all and why. The themes in this book are complex and it touches on contemporary dilemmas, such as how social media shapes interaction, how reputations and lives can be destroyed and others carefully curated to present a pretty picture rather than reality, the damage to services caused by austerity measures, parental neglect – whether of resources or affection, and the damage these things do to the young and vulnerable.

I found the ‘transcript’ format really easy to get into, although I was a bit thrown at first. It’s a great way to explore the different perspectives and to allow characters to speak as though they were being interviewed, to develop different narratives and their own perspectives. Scott is always in the background but is character comes across in his questions and ruminations.

I really got a sense of time and place in this novel. The creepy atmosphere of the Tower, the depression of Ergarth, the desperate need for attention soaked through. I almost felt like I’d been there. Could be Grimsby on a bad day.

Really enjoyed this book. Very much recommended.

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- and 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.

3 thoughts on “Review: Beast, by Matt Wesolowski

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