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Thriller set in imagined Northumberland

27th March 2017

Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski – thriller set in imagined Northumberland.

Six Stories is a somewhat quirky, but extremely well written, thriller set around the imagined Scarclaw Fell in Northumberland.

thriller set in imagined Northumberland

In 1996 a tragic event happened. Fifteen-year-old Tom Jeffries went missing on the Fell one night – and his body was not discovered until a year later. Tom and five teenage friends, together with two adults, were spending a few days at Scarclaw Fell Woodland Centre (described by one character in the book as a ‘glorified barn’ – but actually a bit more desirable than that). They were part of a group informally called ‘The Rangers’ created by their parents to promote outdoor living and adventure. They were all normal teenage kids from mid 90s middle class backgrounds and, as such, into drinking alcohol, smoking cannabis, and the odd sexual encounter. But nothing apparently as sinister as murder.

The coroner’s verdict on Tom was, after a pretty cursory investigation by the authorities, recorded as accidental death, but fast forward SIX STORIES BLOG TOUR POSTERtwenty-one years to 2017. There is a radio podcast, with a cult following, called Six Stories. Its presenter, Scott King, takes an old unresolved mystery and explores it. Each mystery has six episodes devoted to it. Scott does not attempt to apportion guilt or blame – rather he sets out to provide his audience with the facts on which they can come to their own conclusions. He does this by focussing each episode around an interview with someone who can throw his or her perspective on the situation.

Tom Jeffries’ death is the subject of one such Six Stories series. Scott interviews four of the children twenty-one years on, one of the parents, and Haris Novak – a local man with autism and learning difficulties, who was a prime suspect at the time but subsequently cleared. He also extensively explores the myth of Nanna Wrack – a frightening ‘creature’ who inhabits the Fell and lures the unsuspecting to their death. Several of the interviewees claim to have seen her… and to have not enjoyed the experience. Scott’s interviews probe the relationships between the five teenagers, and discuss who was top dog, who admired who, and who bullied who. They turn out to be not as altogether a desirable bunch as we had imagined.

Where Six Stories scores extremely well in is the dialogue and authenticity of the interviews – whether held in person, by Skype, or by phone. You feel the interviews are actually happening. Some are a bit bumbling and go off track, but Scott manages to bring them back. He even (as a final reality inclusion) redacts some of the irrelevant detail – such as addresses – in the interviews as published. Very clever.

Yes, one can question why the authorities didn’t investigate the death as thoroughly as they might have done in the first place – and even why some of the respondents chose to be interviewed after so long. But that would be churlish. Matt Wesolowski has created a very clever concept that works really well.

Tony for the TripFiction Team

You can follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and visit his author page at Orenda Books

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For many more books to transport you to the wonderful county that is Northumberland, just click here!

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