This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
15.01.2018 / Orenda Books / Thriller-Mystery / Paperback / 271pp / 978-1910633977
Target Audience: Readers who are looking for dark thrills, chilling mysteries and a tour of the shadier side of humanity. A narrative with strong themes, plenty of heart under all that darkness and a (positively) provocative nature.
A family massacre
A deluded murderess
Which one is true?
One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the northwest of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, stepfather and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation.
King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five key witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was as diminished as her legal team made out.
As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden ‘games’, online trolls, and the mysterious black-eyed kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a murderess…
Dark, chilling and gripping, Hydra is both a classic murder mystery and an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller that shines light in places you may never, ever want to see again.
Matt Wesolowski’s Hydra brings us another episode of the incredibly popular true crime podcast, Six Stories with Scott King. Across six separate interviews (and articles, tapes, documentaries etc), SK returns to the horrific story of Arla Macleod and the night she brutally murdered her mother, father and younger sister. Most of the details of the case are public knowledge and the case has long since closed, but King is interested in what was left unsaid about the motive and circumstances behind the murders.
Everyone knows the who and the how but the why is still unclear. Arla was incarcerated for life in a facility that will help with the mental instability that was perceived to have caused the incident. A sentence that was deemed light in the eyes of the public. Accusations of satanism and acting on the influences of music permeated the media. Arla became just another ‘classic’ story of rebellious, disturbed and angry youths acting out.
Scott King feels this case needs understanding and closure, so he sets out to interview those involved in the hope to shed new light on The Macleod Massacre. King even gets an exclusive interview with Arla, to hear her side of events. Each interview drawing new information and failures to light. Soon SK is plunged into a chaotic story of psychosis, black eyed children haunting people, disturbing internet games, online trolls, negligence and manipulation. Its not long before SK begins to receive serious threats himself.
Can he wrap up this unforgiving investigation before he himself goes beyond the point of no return?
Matt Wesolowski has blown me away yet again! Bringing us yet another chilling and addictive investigation into mysteries surrounding closed cases. The narrative gripped me all over again, pulling me further in with every dark twist, tense challenge and ominous moment. I think everyone knew Matt Wesolowski was on to something refreshing and unique with Six Stories but it is a pleasure to see him back it up with Hydra. MW flirts with the line between reality and the supernatural perfectly and the imagery he generates with this approach is superb. I still have imprints of the horrors in my mind. Its funny because I was chilled and unsettled by the depth of Arla’s visions (especially children) but it only fuelled my need for closure. I never felt the need to turn away from Hydra, I just wanted to understand.
Scott King is back and is as inquisitive as ever. I love the ebb and flow of his interviews, at times suppressed and gentle then straight as an arrow, cut to the core. The podcast delivery feels so natural and authentic. It could have easily come across as manufactured and convenient but Matt takes his time with consistency and timing which pays off no end, making me yet again get lost in the details. I don’t think the actual story was as strong as his first novel overall but the delivery and character focus was definitely superior this time around. More in-depth, considered and enticing. Exploring the individuals and the facts (as well as all the speculating) with more weight behind the outcome of the interviews.
Wesolowski’s strength/talent as a writer lays in many areas including range and nuance. But what made Hydra extra special for me was both his descriptive and emotional nature and the sheer quantity of meaningful and immediately relevant themes. MW has a honest and considered perspective on the world and he shares it in every fibre of his writing. Whether it be psychological frailty, violence being blamed on alternative music and predatory behaviour online to the ever-duplicitous media that spread misinformation to the public.
MW has a lot to say about the real world state of affairs but each subject evidently matters to him and it admirable to see them included in meaningful ways (especially his own passion for music). Matt’s stories are fiction but they run perfectly adjacent to our reality making it even easier to get lost within these pages. I also think the fact that Matt doesn’t spell it out for the reader is great, leaving plenty of ideas for interpretation and rumination. Hydra culminates in an explosive ending with enough closure to settle my over active imagination, but with plenty of food for thought.
I love a good psychological thriller with plenty of mystery but its those stories, like Hydra, that add a dose of much needed depth and meaning to the genre that I look forward to reading the most. If you are looking for a cool, solid and haunting read then Hydra is for you. If you want extra depth and heart in your reads then Matt Wesolowski has you covered as well. Read Six Stories, read Hydra and get ready for Changeling!
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