This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
24.01.2019 / Orenda Books / Thriller-Mystery / Paperback / 271pp / 978-1910633977
Target Audience: Readers who appreciate a great mystery, ghost story and psychological thriller. Plenty of mythology, psychology and intensity!
On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the dark Wentshire Forest Pass, when his father, Sorrel, stopped the car to investigate a mysterious knocking sound. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.
Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. Journeying through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there, he talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know what happened to the little boy…
Matt Wesolowski’s Changeling is the latest chilling act in a truly superb and unique series that has left me consistently mystified, shocked to the core and inspired. Matt Wesolowski has his finger on the pulse of modern society and the stories he brings to us with that understanding are fantastic. Changeling was different to Hydra and Six Stories. It was certainly more raw, featuring a Scott King showing unprecedented fear and anxiety in between the interviews in his new episode of Six Stories.
If you are unfamiliar with this series then shame on you (kidding…) (sort of…). Six Stories is a popular true crime podcast that explores what the host, Scott King, believes to be unsolved cases over a course of interviews with individuals directly involved in the events or those who can provide backstory and context to the case. The previous two novels explored plenty of dark pasts and unpredictable individuals which left SK in limbo, trying to determine if his life was in danger and if it was worth carrying on with the podcast.
After deciding the show must continue, King is somewhat pressured by an individual to shed new light on the case of 7 year old Alfie Marsden, missing and presumed dead. Alfie went missing in Wentshire Forest in 1988. After endless searching, Alfie’s body was never found. The world heard that Alfie’s disappearance was mourned by a loving father and ignore by an alcoholic mother. It is believed that no one knows what happened that fateful night when Sorrel Marsden stopped to investigate a fault in his car only to discover his child missing; lost in the unforgiving Wentshire forest.
A forest with a dark past. Rumoured to be inhabited by ghosts, witches, elves, fairies and other nefarious beings. Sacred ground where children have been known to disappear and return completely different. Changelings. I was surprised at first about how invested MW was in the ghost story element of this novel. In his previous novels he remained on the fence between reality and the supernatural, letting his readers interpret the story but the first act of Changelings is a solid ghost story and all the eeriness that accompanies such a scenario. I was also pleased to see that MW went full on with the mystery element of the novel too which he accentuated well with an unforgettable setting.
The second act is a complete change in direction. More focused on the family themselves and how it all fell apart. I am not going to elaborate on the characters involved too much because MW has structured his delivery in a very particular way which I would hate to spoil. I was surprised by Scott King’s viewpoint this time around, scared, pushy and invested in the outcome more than ever. It was an impressive change of style. I was definitely haunted by both acts in very different ways. It will be a while before I comfortably traverse a forest again so… thanks for that Matt. The second act is a challenge to process in its own ways because of the psychological nature of events (no more detail on that).
The different atmospheres that MW cultivated in this novel were brilliant yet uncomfortable. Creepiness giving way to tension which turns into attraction and so forth. Matt yet again utilises his ability to harness real world problems and fuses them into a meaningful narrative. Themes like neglect, control, manipulation, mental health, power, addiction and fear. There are sections of this book that I would define as ‘difficult to read’ because they are so real and raw. For me it is the reason I keep coming back to his work as MW comes across as a beacon of understanding. I also loved the (somewhat brief) exploration of folklore, ghost sightings and mythology. So cool!
I wouldn’t mind seeing MW take on full blown mythology stories in the future… just saying :D.
As per usual, MW nails the ending with surprises I didn’t even see coming. Bringing the narrative of all three books together full circle. Turning a hopeless story of a boy taken by the woods into something much more twisted, unforgiving and desperately real. Unless I am mistaken though, this feels like the conclusion to Six Stories. I am gutted if this is true because I could easily read three more instalments with out breaking a sweat.
If you haven’t read any of the Six Stories books then don’t worry as Changeling can be read as a standalone but it would be a shame not to read all three novels as they all grab you in a different way, refusing to let the reader go. Of course I look forward to what MW has in store for the future but I just wanted to say that Six Stories has been the most remarkable and memorable psychological thriller and mystery series I have read in a long time. If you need me I will be nursing my book hangover for quite a while somewhere quiet. But not too quiet…
About Matt Wesolowski
Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. Follow Matt on Twitter @ConcreteKraken and on his website: mjwesolowskiauthor.wordpress.com