Six Stories is a novel that has been sat waiting patiently to be read for far too long, and as I’m taking part in the blog tour for Wesolowski’s follow up novel, Hydra, in the new year, I found the perfect excuse to make a start on this novel.
1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward-bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who took that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.
2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.
Welcome to Six Stories. I’m Scott King.
In the next six weeks, we will be looking back at the Scarclaw Fell tragedy of 1996. We’ll be doing so from six different perspectives; seeing the events that unfolded through six pairs of eyes.
I loved the format of Six Stories, which is told as a series of podcasts featuring interviews with those involved in the case which are released on a weekly basis. I think that this is an ingenious idea, and whilst I’m sure that it wasn’t straightforward to turn a podcast series into the novel form, Wesolowski pulls it off. Each interview focuses on a separate individual, and so the reader (or listener) gradually builds up a complete picture as we hear the story from a variety of perspectives, including the friends that Tom was with that night.
One aspect that Wesolowski does really well is to give each interviewee a distinctive voice – not easy when there are so many, and, because of the format, each one has ample opportunity to share their side of the story. I found the elements of group psychology (leaders vs. group members etc.) to be extremely interesting. Whilst the group at Scarclaw Fell are ostensibly friends, teenagers can be exceptionally cruel to each other, and this novel also explores bullying in its various forms, something which I thought was handled brilliantly, and which showed a thorough understanding of human behaviour.
The story itself is also a compelling one. A group of friends at an outward-bound centre, under the supervision of two adults, when one goes missing during the night, their body undiscovered until a year later. I was hooked, and read through this in a single day to find out what had happened to Tom. Whilst some novels that try to do something a little different fall flat as they focus too much on the style, this wasn’t an issue here, and Wesolowski delivers both style and substance, with a clever plot that has plenty of twists to keep the reader on their toes.
I have seen a couple of reviews for this novel that mention the way in which Scott King summarises what has been gone before, highlighting any discrepancies between stories, and the elements that are worth focusing on, with the criticism that this comes across as hand-holding and maybe even a little patronising. For me, this wasn’t an issue at all, and I think that it’s important to remember that these are podcasts, and that if you were listening to these interviews on a weekly basis with “real life” going on in between, that you would be quite likely to forget some of the detail between each interview and where inconsistencies have cropped up. As such, I felt that Wesolowski was staying true to the form in which he’d chosen to tell this story, and I thought that the delivery was excellent.
I thoroughly enjoyed Six Stories, which gives a very modern twist to the classic mystery novel, and I can’t wait to take part in the blog tour for Hydra in January!
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐