I have a confession to make… this is actually the first crime novel I ever read! I read it way before publication, back in December (perks of the trade), and, you might say, the whole idea for this monthly blog stemmed from it. A bit of alright then? I’d say so!
The thing about books is there are many reasons behind why we choose to read them: big things like plot, setting, characters, background; then smaller, seemingly insignificant, things like an eye-catching cover or even if the author is from the same place as you. This book taps into a deep and abiding love I’ve always had for storytelling as a narrative device, in which the act of telling the story becomes the frame for the action. Therefore Six Stories, aptly titled, ticks this one very big box for me but also appealed on a number of minor levels.
It is also, as you can see, a very attractive looking book – dispelling lots of crime fiction clichés I had regarding black (and red) covers – with eerily lit green fir trees mirrored to look like a sound wave… as each of the six stories retells the same core story – the murder of a teenage boy in 1997 – via a series of podcasts recorded ten years later. This is a brilliant way of displaying how people’s perspectives on the same set of events differ; something that has been popularised by TV series, such as The Killing (DR1), The Walking Dead (AMC) and The Affair (Showtime), to fascinating effect. As previously noted I’ve always enjoyed crime dramas – Twin Peaks (ABC) and The Killing especially – and this beautifully measured narrative bears similarities to both; something that made it an ideal introduction to the genre for me.
Matt Wesolowski hails from Northumberland (where I grew up!) which is one of those things that shouldn’t really matter when picking a book but sometimes does. Scarclaw Fell, where the events of the novel take place, is a fictitious location but was certainly reminiscent to me of various northern locations, especially Scafell Pike in Cumbria and Kielder Forest. Place is of the utmost important in this novel – not specifically the northern setting, although I found that it rung very true for me – but the sense of place as a compelling presence. The woodland, with its ethereal appeal and hold over the cast of characters, is at once remedial and menacing. There is more than a little horror creeping through Wesolowski’s settings, as well as several of the individual story lines.
For anyone concerned that a novel which retells the same story six times might be repetitive let me assure you that the subtle nuances of each layer of narrative creates an almost delirious build-up, resulting in a real rug-out-from-under-you moment towards the conclusion.
(£8.99, p/b, 320pp, 9781910633625)