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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

‘Six Stories’ by Matt Wesolowski

Published by Orenda Books,
30 March 2017.


In 1996 Derek Bickers and Sally Mullen take five teenagers on an adventure weekend near Scarclaw Fell.  The group are members of an unofficial club, The Rangers, who have taken part in similar outings many times before, but on this occasion one member of the group,  fifteen-year-old Tom Jeffries, goes missing.  The alarm is raised, the area searched, but the boy cannot not be found. 

A year later Harry Saint Clement Ramsay, whose father owns the land around Scarclaw Fell, is in the area with two of his friends when the trio stumble upon Tom’s rotting corpse.  This grisly find converts the missing person enquiry into a suspicious death, and prompts an investigation.  The other members of the group, already traumatised since Tom’s disappearance, now find themselves questioned by the police as potential murder suspects.  The enquiry is thorough, but Tom’s death cannot be conclusively attributed to either misadventure or murder and effectively becomes a cold case.

Fast forward twenty years to 2017 and Harry, still haunted by the gruesome discovery he and his pals made, is contacted by a famously elusive investigative journalist who broadcasts using the pseudonym Scott King.  King wants to revisit the fatal Rangers’ excursion through a series of interviews with Tom’s friends, Eva Bickers, Anyu Kekkon, Charlie Armstrong, Brian Mings, as well as Haris Novak who befriended the group and, of course, Harry.  For a period of six weeks each member of the group will offer their perspective on the events of 1996, and at the end of the series listeners will be invited to consider their verdict on the case.

The author allows the narrative to unfold through the “Six Stories”, interspersed with Harry’s flashbacks and the reporter’s commentary.  Direct speech, reported in the podcast transcripts, injects pace as well as nuance into the story, and the presentation of different, often contradictory, viewpoints creates and maintains interest and tension.  The reader becomes a listener - looking forward to the next instalment/chapter to see what the next guest on the programme will reveal and how their lives have been affected by their involvement in the tragedy.  There are twists and turns in abundance in this refreshingly modern novel and the reader is kept guessing to the end.  A super book, highly recommended.
Reviewer: Dorothy Marshall-Gent

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for children in care and leads Cuckoo Young Writers creative writing workshops for young people in association with New Writing North. Wesolowski started his writing career in horror and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous magazines and US anthologies. Wesolowski was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at 'Bloody Scotland'; Crime Writing Festival 2015 and his short crime story 'Tulpa' was subsequently published in the Northern Crime One' anthology (Moth Publishing 2015). .Six Stories is his debut crime novel and available through Orenda Books .

You can follow Matt on twitter @concretekraken
 and his blog can be found at

Dot Marshall-Gent worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction.  

‘Block 46’ by Johana Gustawsson

Translated by Maxim Jakubowski
Published by Orenda Books,
31 May 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-910633-70-0                    

Falkenberg, Sweden, and the mutilated body of talented jewellery designer Linnea Blix is discovered in a snow-swept marina.

Hampstead Heath, London, and the body of a small boy is found with similar wounds to Linnea's.

Buchenwald Concentration Camp 1944, and in the middle of the hell that is the Holocaust, Erich Ebner will do anything to survive.

Alex Castellis is a true crime writer and a close friend of Linnea Blix, and she is thrown together with Canadian profiler Emily Roy to try and find out if the two murders are linked, and how they could be connected to the shocking events at a concentration camp 70 years earlier.

This is another dark and disturbing crime novel from the successful Orenda stable, and has been beautifully translated from the original French by Maxim Jakubowski. It's the first in a series featuring Emily Roy and Alex Castellis. It has a challenging mystery at its heart and is set between Sweden and London, ranging from the last years of the Second World War to 2014.

The characters are interesting - Emily is spiky and guarded and cares nothing for the social niceties. She remains an enigma even at the end of the book, but because she is such a tough nut to crack, I am looking forward to finding out more about her in future stories. Alex has a past of which we keep getting tantalising glimpses. Again, I want to know more about her. The locations are beautifully depicted - the cold of Sweden wonderfully evoked. The many-layered plot is twisty and tussles with the psychology of evil, good versus bad and nature versus nurture. A word of warning - it can be quite harrowing.

The haunting chapters set in Buchenwald are visceral and chilling and give us a vivid picture of the brutality that existed in the camps, without the writing being in any way gratuitous. It's worth saying that Johana Gustawsson's grandfather, Simon Lagunes, was a survivor of Buchenwald and a member of the camp's resistance movement until the camp’s liberation in April 1945.

I am looking forward to seeing what Gustawsson comes up with for book two.
Reviewer: Mary-Jane Riley

Johana Gustawsson was born in 1978 in Marseille. With a degree in political science, she has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She was the co-author of a bestseller, On se retrouvera, which was published by Fayard Noir in France, whose television adaptation drew over 7 million viewers in June 2015. She is working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter. She was eight. It was about a gang of children who had adventures on mysterious islands, but she soon realised Enid Blyton had cornered that particular market. So, she wrote about the Wild West instead. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life stories. Now she is writing psychological suspense, drawing on her experiences in journalism. The Bad Things by Mary-Jane Riley was published by Harper Collins/Killer Reads. Her second book, After She Fell, also published by Killer Reads in April 2016.  

To read the review of After She Fell click here