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.
For those unfamiliar with the Six Stories series, I will start off by saying that this is book 4 of 6. Having also read Demon, which is the finale, I can confidently say that this is the type of series that you can drop in with at any point. Each story, although presented by the same journalist, is individual of each other, and so do not worry too much about reading them in order.
I cannot speak highly enough about Beast or Demon. The concept of the stories is so original and well done that it is a breath of fresh air to read, and a perfect stop gap when you are in a reading slump or unsure what to read next. It is the book’s format that is so unique. Written similarly to a transcript, the book is split up into 6 sections: 6 podcast episodes with 6 interviews with different people connected to a murder mystery case. Each section presents the conversation between journalist Scott King and whoever he is talking to that is relevant to the case.
In the case of this story that attempts to learn more about the death of a young vlogger at the hands of 3 ex classmates in a small coastal town on the east of England, these interviews include the parents of the deceased girl, her brother, a local town resident, and a former teacher and mentor of one of the killers. Wesolowski does a great job at giving each interviewee their own distinct personality through their dialogue and opinions. There is no clear path to a conclusion to the murder mystery. Some of the interviewees are biased, they have hidden motives, or they simply do not have the whole picture. They contradict each other and they confuse and bewilder both the journalist and us the reader in the process. The truth is buried under conjecture and gossip, and this only makes us more and more ravenous for the answers.
One of my favourite aspects about Beast is his ability to sculpt a picture of a small town and its history. Through Scott King’s own observations of the town he is visiting, along with useful tidbits from his interviewees, we gain a real understanding of the gritty and desperate nature of the town of Ergarth. Even a place as rundown and forgettable as Ergarth has its own long and controversial history, from arson attacks to vampires, and we hear about it all. Superstition runs writhe in the story, and the understanding of the town and its social and historical context that we develop makes it clear how this could happen, while also lending credence to the idea of the supernatural existing within the story. We are never sure quite what is true and what isn’t until the very end. For once, the characters hold all the power over us.
Another aspect of Beast I enjoyed was its commentary on social media fandom and its many intricacies and dangers. Everything is not what it seems with the victim of the case and much of this is due to her online persona and how many in the story perceive her as a result of that. The story recognises and explores issues with parasocial relationships and online personas, and it was fascinating to see how this strand of the story progressed and mutated as more and more answers were revealed.
If you are into your murder mysteries or are simply looking for something slightly different to your typical horror story, then I cannot recommend Beast, or indeed any of the ‘Six Stories’ series enough!