Blog tour: 1 to 29 February 2020
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 return …
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 …
In March 2018, the body of a young woman, Elizabeth Barton, was discovered in Tankerville Tower, a 13th century ruin, in the north-eastern town of Ergarth, on the Northumbrian coast. She was found frozen to death, as the area was in the grip of freezing Siberian winds (the ‘Beast from the East’), but had terrible injuries and three young local men (Martin Flynn, Solomon Meer and George Meldby, all in their early twenties) were convicted of her murder. Two years later, after the discovery of graffiti on the Barton family home, which seems to suggest the murder needs to be looked into, online journalist, Scott King, decides to investigate and speak to six people who were connected with the victim.
Scott King has become known for his online Six Stories podcasts, in which he examines complicated cases and carries out six interviews with key witnesses to try and determine the truth of what has happened.
Elizabeth Barton was also an online sensation: a video blogger (vlogger) and influencer, who had a large following on Instagram and YouTube for her shopping and ‘unboxing’ videos and charity work and was taking part in the Dead in Six Days challenge at the time of her death. This was a current internet craze that had been doing the rounds and Elizabeth was the first in the town to take part. It involved carrying out a challenge that has been set by a ‘vampire’ via WhatsApp and then uploading a video of the prank on YouTube. Once they’ve complete their challenge, the person is supposed to pass the vampire’s number on to someone else or they will have to carry out another challenge. This carries on for six days, which is when the vampire comes to kill the person! Elizabeth refused to pass the tasks on as she wanted to meet the vampire called Vladlena and face ‘death’ in her quest for more likes online.
As Scott King interviews the six people in his podcasts, we learn more about everyone connected with the murder, and about Elizabeth herself, and some shocking facts and truths are revealed! It was interesting to see how the parts of the jigsaw fitted together, or didn’t, as Scott got deeper into his investigations. All is not what it seems for most of the people involved! We also learn more about the town, with its smelly abattoir and rather dark, depressing and disturbing history, and about the Ergarth Vampire who is supposed to haunt the Tankerville Tower and surrounding area.
Beast was really thought provoking and a rather dark and creepy read. It’s spookily written and atmospheric and there’s a real sense of darkness and evil. It was rather spine chilling at times and very disconcerting and unsettling. There’s also a sense of foreboding and dread running throughout the book, of the horrors that lurk in this town and in its young people and the pressures they face in this modern internet world. Their need for attention and validation; to be acknowledged, accepted and liked on social media, above all else. It doesn’t seem a healthy way to live and things felt rather depressing and hopeless at times, especially as the people involved were actually young adults rather than children.
Overall, I really enjoyed this well-written and cleverly plotted book. Such an unusual concept and really well done. I wasn’t too sure how it would work at first but each podcast brought a different angle to the proceedings, a different thread, and cleverly stripped back the layers of intrigue, mystery and deception that had been covering this story and indeed the town and its people for the last few years. Compelling stuff and it was interesting to hear a different voice and a different angle to the story in each podcast. Intermingled with the story were supernatural elements and I was never quite sure what to believe and whether there was truth to the whole vampire legend or not!
I imagine this series would be perfect for listening on audio so I’ll have to try one in this format. I’m embarrassed to admit this was my first book from the Six Stories series, and it works fine as a standalone, but I’ll definitely be checking out the other three episodes now: Six Stories, Hydra and Changeling.
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About the author
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. Changeling, book three in the series, was published in 2019.
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