Author: Matt Wesolowski
Publisher: Orenda Books
Date of publication: February 2020
Format read: Advance Proof copy
Number of pages: 242
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, 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…
Welcome to Chocolate’n’waffles. I’m Donna…oops, that was me before, but like Scott King, my past and present have new colours now, so you might know me as Meggy. You might wonder about the format of this review. If you do, then you are not acquainted with the Six Stories series, or my review of the first installment. Both are terrible things. Read my review here, and if you don’t already, grab your copy of Matt’s books. Yes, plural. You’ve got four books to devour!
In this short review-podcast blog, I will be looking at the fourth beast Matt Wesoloswki has sent our way (see what I did there?)
I have said it before, I will say it again – I need originality. I need to have one foot firmly on the ground, and the other lost somewhere between the pages of a novel that transports me, amazes me, or makes me face the monsters under the bed. Beast does it all.
Of course, the main power of this series is its format, hence my review-podcast. I did think about recording myself, but I decided to spare you. Say thanks. Back to the matter at hand. Podcasts are gaining popularity by the day. You can absorb information quickly, wherever you are, and about anything you want. But there are podcasts and Podcasts. The Six Stories by Scott King go over crime cases that the host carefully chooses… or do they choose him? Scott has a knack for going through a newspaper headline story step by step to create the bigger picture. What you do with the information you are provided with is entirely up to you. Isn’t that simply splendid? You don’t just listen to a nice voice recounting facts and events in a monotone way. You hear about people involved in the tragedy, Scott shares his thoughts and the result of his research. When you begin reading/listening, you don’t know where the story will take you. Yes, books do that, whatever. Matt Wesoloswki, our author, has mastered the art of making the reader/listened a full-time part of his podcasts. And Beast is no exception.
A cold snap, a dead young vlogger, a vampire, and three culprits. Yes, I did write (and said in my head) vampire. I am not talking Buffy’s Angel, I am talking old stories of non-living people walking around and scaring the hell out of you. If, at first, I resisted and put this ‘detail’ aside, thanks to my down-to-earth no-nonsense mind, I soon realized I would need to swallow my non-belief and let the story take me there, as this aspect is rooted in the center of the events. One of the three young men condemned for the crime had a fascination for vampires, and the location where vlogger Lizzie B was found, as well as what was done to her, points to a cult-like abomination. So I went this it. Was I expecting an interview with a vampire? No, I think Brad Pitt already did that, didn’t he?
I read carefully, trying to understand the unsaid during the interviews, doing my best to keep up with Scott as the awful death of this young woman was brought back to the front of everyone’s mind, forcing past events to resurface. Between the podcast format and the setting, beautifully described by the author in a gothic and claustrophobic way, I began dreading the cold…
But the coup de grace came at the end. I was 100% immersed into the events, enjoying the journey – if you can actually enjoy dissecting the brutal murder of a twenty-something and the different accounts from people suffering from that fateful night – with my best psychological analysis cells playing with the pieces of the freezing puzzle, when Matt Wesolowski blew my mind… with his vampire. He forced me to look at people, behaviors, and actions, and put me at the center of a terrible stage. Beast’s power lies in the fact I became more afraid of whos instead of whats. I looked the vampire in the eye.
The novel is made so dark by a million of aggravating details like a black cloud that never leaves the sky. Wherever you look, there are different sides to what you see. And Matt Wesolowski reminds us we too often choose to keep our eyes firmly on the bright side, and ignore the creeping and threatening shadows until it is too late. I think that’s the most horrifying part!
Beast is a unique creature, an intense blood-sucking novel in which reality and tales merge to reveal our real nature.
You can find a copy of the book on Amazon
I would like to thank Anne Cater and Orenda Books for having me on the tour and for providing me with a copy of this novel.