Matt Wesolowski returns with the fourth in his Six Stories series in BEAST, at once a mystery, a ghost story, and a critical look at social media and its effect on today’s youth.

The windswept, depressed area of the UK’s north-east brings the coastal town of Ergarth as the setting for the creative ideation of the series. True-crime podcaster Scott King is there to investigate the death of popular vlogger, Elizabeth Barton.

Found in a bizarre situation during the arctic freeze, naked and frozen to death, Elizabeth’s body is discovered inside Tankerville Tower, an ancient clifftop ruin that supports the local myth that calls it the Vampire Tower.

The three young men convicted of this grisly crime have all called it a “prank gone wrong” and seem willing to take their punishment. But graffiti on the Barton’s garden wall suggests that the youths may not indeed be guilty. Then who killed Elizabeth?

As King speaks to six witnesses, hence the title, he unearths the online craze that Elizabeth was party to that led her to the tower. He finds that in this desolate, hopeless area, the youth are tied to their internet crazes, and Elizabeth was local celebrity. While many looked up to her and wanted to be near her and be in her circle, there were others who seemed set on her ruin.

Elizabth is seen as a study in contrasts when King compares her presence online to the witness statements about what she was really like. With absent parents providing ‘things’ instead of attention to her and her brother, the need her to feel she was the center of attention and adoration grew.

The device alternates transcripts of “Lizzie” and her last vlogs with transcripts of the interviews that King conducts, with his voice-over narration and dialogue from those witnesses. It’s an intriguing concept that brings a brooding darkness to the story.

Stark in its reality of our attention-seeking society, BEAST manages to convey a striking and well-plotted thriller within the clever structure that takes the genre and bends it into something totally gripping and original. Highly recommended.