Source: Review copy
Publication: 26 December 2019 from Simon and Schuster UK
Six friends trapped by one dark secret.
It was supposed to be our last weekend away as friends, before marriage and respectability beckoned. But what happened that Saturday changed everything.
In the middle of the night, someone died. The six of us promised each other we would not tell anyone about the body we buried. But now the pact has been broken. And the killing has started again …
Who knows what we did? And what price will we pay?
I loved Luca Veste’s The Bone Keeper which started with an urban myth – a bogeyman made large when four children go wandering in of one of Liverpool’s woodlands chanting the Bone Keeper song as they go – and then only three came back.
So I was raring to pick up The Six, to see where he was going to take his penchant for grisly tales next.
Our narrator is Matt, a man who is loyal to his friends and in love with his girlfriend, Alexandra. They are preparing to settle down and have a family. But they decide to have one last fling – a nostalgia trip with four of their closest friends – to a nineties themed musical festival.
Matt’s an ordinary bloke. He can’t help it if he thinks the best song of all time is Britney’s Hit Me One More Time. Matt’s narration takes us from the present back into the past where we learn about how the bonds of his friendships were formed and why they are so strong.
So three blokes and three girls go camping in a clearing at the edge of the woods, adjacent to the music festival field.
Everything about this opener feels right. Authentic characters, lots of vivid detail about the 90’s and cultural references that make you feel as if you were living in the era. It’s a kind of Stand By Me for the 90’s generation.
As you’ll see from the blurb, something terrible happens out in those creepy woods. Something that will mark these six for the rest of their lives. An event that is so horrific it changes them and alters their course forever. A killing is linked to an urban legend, ‘The Candle Man’; he is a flickering figure allegedly responsible for the deaths of a number of missing people across the country. These deaths are apparently marked by the leaving of a lit red candle inside a storm lantern.
The events of that night leave an indelible blot on the six friends who drift apart; relationships are sundered and contact severed. Matt and Alexandra split up; the others simply don’t renew contact. Then a year later, five of them meet up again, at the funeral of the sixth and this serves as the catalyst for a new series of terrible events.
It’s the brilliant contrast between a group of close happy friendships – people you feel you could have known and got on with – to the pale shadows of themselves they become after that music festival. The air that was full of fabulous 90’s songs and culture is now tainted with images of blood and destruction.
Matt becomes almost completely agoraphobic. He is an insomniac, full of anxiety and constantly worried about the existence of the mythical figure who is ‘The Candle Man’. Does he really exist and if so, is it one person, or two? The internet provides all sorts of theories that link the killings, but the police are not linking the missing people at all.
As Matt becomes increasingly obsessed, his friends start to look at him askance. Is Matt losing it, or is he onto something?
Luca Veste has plotted this book beautifully. His story paths lead us on all sorts of crooked walks, so that you feel like you’re constantly walking on crazy paving – none of which lead to the truth until the shocking, startling denouement.
Verdict: Creepy, atmospheric, full of pace and best of all, wonderfully surprising, this character driven narrative is the perfect read for a cold winter’s day. The Six is a serial killer thriller with a strong heart and an unsettling psyche.
Luca Veste is a writer of Italian and Liverpudlian heritage, married with two young daughters, and one of nine children. He studied psychology and criminology at university in Liverpool.
He is the author of the Murphy and Rossi series. Part psychological thriller, part police procedural, his books follow the detective pairing of DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi. The novels are set in Liverpool, bringing the city to life in a dark and terrifying manner, with just a splash of Scouse humour. He also wrote the stand-alone novel, The Bone Keeper, published last year.
His books have been translated and published in the USA, Germany, Czech Republic, and Poland. As well as writing, Luca is also a guitarist and regularly performs with the group The Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers. Luca is also one half of the hysterically funny podcast duo, Two Crime Writers and a Microphone. If you haven’t heard Luca and his partner in crime, Steve Cavanagh, then you really should subscribe!