Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series is smart, contemporary and sinister. Using the format of Scott King’s much-watched podcasts to explore a particular crime, he mixes folklore, crime-fiction and elements of horror and the supernatural to play on his characters’ and the reader’s paranoia and fear. It’s a masterclass in audience manipulation, but the kind utilised so well in classic giallo and slasher movies, where we know we’re being manipulated but we go back for more anyway, hands over eyes, peering out at the action between our fingers. Deity, the latest in the King series, does all that and more. Its gaze is on celebrity and our fascination with it, the mystery the death in a fire of a mega popstar, all set against a remote, suitably spooky location, this time the Highlands of Scotland.

At the heart of King’s investigation is music legend Zach Crystal who, amid much speculation, had prior to his death, upped sticks and moved to a remote mansion near the Cairngorms, a place of great beauty, mired in myth, legend and local lore. The speculation, which escalates to much more than that after Crystal’s death, is about who the man really was – musical genius and philanthropist or a serial predator, using his fame and success for more nefarious purposes. Sound familiar?

The backdrop of Crystal Forest, as evoked by Wesolowski from the very first pages, is dark, scary, ‘tangled and treacherous’, where anything could happen and anyone or anything could exist. As with the author’s other stories, it’s a great backdrop against which fact, fiction, myth and reality can merge. And that’s what makes this series of books so interesting: while King tries to pick away at the truth through his interviews and commentary, the more information he or the other characters supply, the more confusing it becomes for us. What is real or imagined? What’s the truth and who’s telling it? It’s deeply unsettling and incredibly clever.

The Six Stories series is of course very visual – it has to be, given the vehicle driving the action is the podcasts – and that’s what makes these books work. We don’t imagine being in that forest, we see it, feel it, experience it – the confusion, the disorientation, the fear, the rising terror. At points, we really don’t want to read on. Yet we do. We have to. We have to know what’s happened. There is no choice.

That is what makes a good book.


Deity | Matt Wesolowski | 18 February 2021 | Orenda Books | paperback original | £8.99

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the virtual book tour. Many thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours, as always, and to the publisher for sending us a book proof and jacket image. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. Please check out the other wonderful reviewers on this tour and please share them.


Also of interest:Smoke screen, Blix and Ramm #2’; ‘Alice Walker and the power of poetry‘; ‘By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Sylvia Plath on poetry‘; ‘WB Yeats, “The Journey of the Magi“‘; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Remembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

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