SIX STORIES by Matt Wesolowski
CBTB Rating: 5/5
The Verdict: fiercely original, innovative storytelling
There’s no other way to say it: SIX STORIES must be the best debut I’ve read in ages. It’s inventive, bold, and unapologetically different—in a crowded field, SIX STORIES stands out for its fierce originality. I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like it, neither in its structure nor in its content. SIX STORIES is based around a true crime podcast, and the author has structured it to mirror such a show: its plot is divided into six separate “interviews” with individuals with knowledge of the story’s central crime. If you love podcasts like Serial or Sword & Scale, you’ll feel right at home in the world of SIX STORIES—but really, this is a book for every crime fiction reader looking to be swept up in a story that’s as addictive as it is unsettling.
Plot Synopsis: 1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound center. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced.
2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivaled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death.
There’s one word I keep repeating when I talk about this book: original. It’s been a long time since I've read a book that’s as much in a category of its own as is SIX STORIES. Every element of this book seems to radiate with originality, from its plot structure to its content to the voices of its characters. I truly wouldn’t know what other book to compare this one to—and I consider that a testament to the author’s vision for his debut novel.
I’m a huge fan of true crime podcasts, and I was instantly impressed with how authentically Wesolowski captures the tone and language used by true crime podcasters. If you’re a fan of Serial, Sword & Scale, or Criminal, you will feel immediately at home in SIX STORIES. But don’t let that lull you into thinking you know what the author has in store for you. SIX STORIES uses the formula of true crime podcasting as a springboard, from which the author launches the reader into a dark, compelling maze that slowly but surely reveals the shocking truth at its core.
Out of all the impressive elements of this debut, the one that stuck with me most has to be the author’s incredible talent for crafting vivid, believable characters in such a short space. This is a relatively brief novel - only 225 pages - but within this space, the author develops six unique characters. And boy, does he develop them well. In the six interviews that make up the book’s “six stories,” Wesolowski has created distinct, three-dimensional people, each with totally individual and lifelike voices. Reading their “interviews,” I found myself forgetting that this was a work of fiction, that’s how truly authentic these characters felt. It's almost hard to imagine that one author could come up with all these unique voices, and manage to make each as strong as the next, but Wesolowski has done it in spades. Readers get to know this group of interviewees - both their individual personalities and their group dynamic - through Wesolowski’s engaging and immersive writing.
This book’s ending completely blew me away. I won’t say much about this, as I would never want to spoil anything. But I’ll just say that I was stunned by the intricate puzzle Wesolowski has laid out in SIX STORIES, and deeply impressed by the sensitivity and insight that lace his writing. After reading this book, I wanted to know so much more about his background—I have so many questions I’d like to ask him.
I do want to make one note: it did take me until I was through the first "interview" to get into the groove of this book. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and it took me a little while to make sense of who was who, and understand how they all relate to one another. Once I did, though, I found myself utterly addicted to this book. And “addicted” really is the right word—when I wasn’t reading SIX STORIES, I was thinking about it or talking about it to anyone who would listen to me.
SIX STORIES is simply a stunning debut crime novel. Its plotting, pacing, and unique content make it one of the most impressive books I’ve read recently. Wesolowski is a major new talent in crime fiction, and I cannot wait to see what he does next.
I have only one piece of advice for you: buy this book.
SIX STORIES by Matt Wesolowski
US Publication date: 6/1/17
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