Review: Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski

34661506Verdict: Highly entertaining, but not without its flaws.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Crime

Published by Orenda Books, 2017

Find it on Goodreads.

It’s 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.

It’s 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.

While looking for a new audiobook to listen to, I saw that this one is narrated by a whole cast of people – and I had just seen a positive review for this book that had been on my radar for a while, so it did seem like fate. And for the most part I had a lot of fun listening to this. Given that the book is told in podcast format, I do think that listening to it was the best idea.

Modelled after podcasts such a Serial, this book tells the story of a group of friends and the sudden death of one of them. The idea behind the podcast is that the story will be told from six perspectives and the audience can form their own opinion. I loved this. Each new voice added another layer to the story and fleshed out the characters. I found the story highly entertaining and sped through it fairly quickly. The main narrator does his job wonderfully and the whole experience was super immersive. I will definitely be checking out the next books in the series.

But even though I had a lot of fun listening to this, I also didn’t think it was without its flaws. I saw the twist coming miles away (and I am not a prolific crime reader) and I am not so sure I find it all that convincing. Additionally, the characters were all god-awful people, which would be fine if the narrative didn’t time and time again excuse their behaviour with “teenagers being teenagers” – those people were just assholes, nothing to do with their age at all.

Another problem I had were some of the voice actors whose accents didn’t always work for me. I also found some of the sentence structures awkward when written allowed which makes no sense given that the book was supposed to be made up of podcast transcripts.

Review: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton

35967101Verdict: Compulsively readable, challenging without being overwhelming, and intriquately plotted.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Date read: January 15th, 2018

Published by Raven Books (Bloomsbury Publishing), February 8th, 2018

Find it on Goodreads.

How do you stop a murder that’s already happened?

At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed–again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend–but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that will appeal to fans of Kate Atkinson and Agatha Christie.

Groundhog Day Meets Agatha Christie was all I needed to hear to be completely positively intrigued by this book. I had an absolute blast reading this and trying (and failing) to figure things out. Aiden Bishop wakes up in a body that is not his with no memory at all. He learns that he will wake up on this same day 8 times in 8 different hosts to solve a murder that will occur in the evening. We follow him chronologically (from his perspective), but everything is always happening at once. There are two others trying to solve the same murder and he will have to figure out who is on his side and who isn’t. This is such a staggeringly brilliant premise that is then executed stunningly.

Stuart Turton juggles many moving parts in a way that makes it relatively easy for the reader to follow along. He has all his moving pieces coming together beautifully and effortlessly and I think this is the biggest strength of this very strong book: this could have been a confusing mess but never was. The different versions of Aiden Bishop feel distinct enough to be complete characters while there is also a piece of him that is always recognizable. I adored the ruminations on identity and responsiblity, with a strong emphasis on action rather than personality.

Aiden Bishop has an incredible disdain for his hosts, who to be fair are mostly unpleasant, but I sometimes found his descriptions unnecessarily cruel, especially regarding one of his host’s overweight body. He went into detailed description of why this body was disgusting and this just did not sit well with me – especially when juxtaposed with his descriptions of another of his hosts (who is a rapist) who he also hates but not that viscerally. It makes sense from an in-book-perspective (his hosts’ personalities influence his reactions and the rapist sees nothing wrong with his behaviour) but still did not work for me. But this was a slight issue I had in the grand scheme of this highly enjoyable book.

I found this extremely clever, very well-written, and exceptionally well-plotted. I cannot wait to hold a finished copy in my hands to reread parts of this to find the hidden clues that I might have missed in my rush to finish this and to know. I cannot wait what Stuart Turton writes next.

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing in exchange for an honest review.