by Matt Wesolowski
20 years ago near Scarclaw Fell, Northumberland, teenager Tom Jeffries died, his body not turning up until a year later. The story hit the news and the finger of suspicion was pointed at many individuals, some of them directly blamed. There were even rumours of a deadly, mythical beast roaming the fells. If this sounds like the kind of folk-tale told round a camp-fire you’d be right, as close to Scarfell Fell was an outward bound centre where teenagers could pass around the rumours of the supernatural. But this book is no fantasy. It’s a crime novel, and takes its structure from a true crime podcast series.
The six stories are from a blog narrated by Scott King, a former journalist with a personal link to the event, with each podcast focused on a different character looking back at the time. We also hear regularly from the man who discovered the body, and what his friends were doing that night. The groups’ relationships provide interest. Their typical teenage shenanigans shine a light but clues are dotted on every flawed shoulder as unreliable narrators have things to hide. The Rangers, who stayed at the lodge, were a group of parents/carers that were on hand to visit and guide them if needs be, only adding to the media questions: was the death an accident? Murder? Or the work of a monster? And why did the body stay hidden for a year?
There is a strong sense of setting, the unsettling natural landscape a perfect fit for the story. There are connections, family and friendships, in this modern, unusual and chilling read. The slow build up and mounting suspense demanded a strong ending and thankfully that’s what we get.
Abou Matt Wesolowskil:
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). His debut crime novel 'Six Stories' will be available through Orenda Books in the spring of 2017
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.
In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries' mysterious death. And who's to blame… As every interview unveils a new revelation, you'll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth.