My huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to review BEAST – its always a pleasure to read any Orenda publication, and this of course has been just so. Totally compulsive and true to Matt Wesolowski’s style.
Continuing the unique, explosive Six Stories series, based around six podcasts comes 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…
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, and the tragic and chilling legend of the Ergarth Vampire…
Our Author : Matt Wesolowski
Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is
an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller.
My Review – BEAST
I Just loved Beast – If you haven’t read any of Matt’s previous work – Six Stories or Hydra, you really must. Scott King carries on his work and this time comes across the consuming cold case of Elizabeth Barton, or Lizzie B as she was know to her thousands of followers. She was an online ‘Influencer’ people followed her to watch her shopping hauls and unboxing of gifts from company hoping her followers would go out and buy what she had opened and was wearing as her OoTD.
Lizzie B though couldn’t resist anything current and followed suit in doing the DISC (Die In Six Days) Challenge that was going round at the time, off she went to try and encounter Vladlena, the local mythical Engarth vampire. She was a Russian hostage, back in Victorian times and was boarded up to die in ‘Tankerville Tower’ – The weather changed, causing a huge snow storm, she was immediately branded a sorceress and a vampire and her body was beheaded and maybe buried in the depths of Ergarth Dene, so the story goes. The real storm in 2018 – The Beast from the East that swept the UK and covered the country in snow, is used as the storyline and is said that Valdlena was the original ‘Beast from the East’ has come back and that when Lizzie was found, as she too was a vampire.
Lizzie didn’t pass her challenge. And Scott King is on the trail, trying to find out from six other points of view, what happened to her.
If you haven’t read any Matt Wesolowski before, he writes in a podcast style, so that Scott King and his guests are speaking and you follow the story that way, like an oral voiceover. Matt has such skill for description and scene setting that it send a chill down your spine. You are in the Dene with Elizabeth, you can almost feel the snow falling, and the fear she must have felt.
Each chapter has a new guest – we meet various folk, who have either been friends with Lizzie like Amirah Choudhury, Rob Karl – he was a local fireman and one of the first to find Lizzie’s body. Her brother Jason and even Lizzie’s parents speak to Scott and each one tells their own version of who Lizzie was and what they think happened to her and why.
The ever growing love that Lizzie B had from her followers, thousands of them, and each time she signed off from one of her online posts, she’d ask her viewers to tell their friends, get them to subscribe too. over half a million views of her videos, wasn’t enough for Lizzie B.
As the DISC challenge story goes along, the challenges get harder – each one more involved – “Liberate the Meat” became Lizzie having a lamb in her back garden, was it her that liberated or someone else, if it was her she doesn’t admit it online, and she would of, because the fame had got to her by this point and she would have wanted the glory of that. Was it though one of those accused of her murder – George Meldby, Martin Flynn, or Solomon Meer? They were known to each other, they were in the same school year. Solomon had posted videos on YouTube too – was there a rivalry between them? Meer was also obsessed by vampires and was perhaps convinced that Elizabeth was one, he seemed to be able to convince George and Martin that she was, as they went along with this idea.
Solomon admits it was him that sent the message to Lizzie, as Vladlena – telling her to go to Tankerville Tower that night, they all admit to locking Lizzie in the Tower, just like Vladlena was shut in back in 1860. Left to freeze to death in the cold and snow. Meldby’s DNA was found on her body – but all of them deny doing the other in-human thing that happened to her. They said it was a prank gone wrong, that she died, but was it?
Lizzie was trying to show her kindness, she started #GiveBackMonday conflicting accounts – manipulative/thoughtful – giving/taking – cruel/caring all this and finding that she was emotionally impoverished compared to those that have been jailed for her murder being unloved, lacked routine and parental guidance. Who’s story really tells the truth about Elizabeth? Was everyone under her power?
The underlying connection between all the characters is social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, the need for more likes and followers, subscribers and more views on YouTube. The need for validation from others, the want and almost addiction for more love and approval from posting selfies. Elizabeth Barton is guilty of this and her need for more.
But none of it is real – its all created to look great for the likes, the filters make it look so much better, for the views, the subscribers – but who are these people, just people online, that think that dress is pretty – but they aren’t your friends. None of them, not really.
Matt has done it again here, BEAST is the a thriller, come true to life story – of what we want right now. The vampire theme is to do with those people sucking the life out of us, out of society. The darkness and cold feeling of reality hitting home.
Compulsive, gripping and current, a must read.
To Buy BEAST – https://bertsbooks.co.uk/product/beast-6th-february-2020/
@ConreteKraken @OrendaBooks @annecater #Beast #ScottKing