Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Hydra the new book from Matt Wesolowski. This is a great addition to the Six Stories series, the feel of it a little darker than it’s predecessor but I have to be honest … That made me love it even more. I’ll be sharing my thoughts with you in just a moment, as soon as we’ve taken a look at what this book is all about.
The Official Book Blurb
Before Scarfell Claw, there was Hydra…
One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the north west of England, 26-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, father 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 witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was a 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 Children, whose presence extends 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.
First off – let’s just get it out there. Do you not just love this cover? So dark, so atmospheric … so absolutely in keeping with the contents of this book. Now when I read Six Stories, I described it as a slow building book, one which gradually takes you over until you are so engrossed that you can’t walk away. Many people felt it was perfect to read episodically – read one podcast a day kind of thing – and the same can very much be said of Hydra. The episodic feel that is. It is, after all, written as a series of podcasts. However, there as absolutely no way I wanted to walk away from this one. I loved it for so, so many reasons. It made me want to get creative. It made me want to be a better blogger, as I’ll need some pretty handy writing to do this book justice.
But I’m going to give it a go.
I’m not going to try to emulate the pod cast. That feel has been done previously and to be fair I have neither the imagination or the talent to even compare with what is contained within this book. Instead, I’m going to break this down into the reasons, six reasons, I love this book.
My first – the pacing and tension. Whereas the last book was for me a slow burner, this one explodes from the gates like a thoroughbred race horse that has no intention of slowing down until it has crossed the finish line. Each podcast adds a new layer of tension and conflict to an already dark subject matter, gets the adrenaline pumping and draws the reader deeper into the story. When you hear what has happened, you would not think it possible to still shock you as a reader, but somehow Matt Wesolowski pulls it off. Not in a slap-in-your-face, heart stopping shock of a twist way, but in the true nature of the darkness within this story. Perhaps it is not all you think it to be.
My second – the characters. From the very first podcast I was hooked by the story and the victims, quite probably because this time we start with the who. Arla Macleod. We know she did it. That is not the point of the book. But she is a truly intriguing character, not only determined from the vague nature of her responses to the questions she is asked, but also from the descriptions of her former friends. Each of the people King speaks to is so carefully crafted that you feel a mixture of empathy and on occasion contempt for everyone within the story – even the victims. Each voice is distinct – unique. King is a great interviewer, the way his summation is written, driving the story on. It is hard to like or to hate any of them and yet I wanted to hear their story. No – not wanted … Needed. I had to know what they had to say. So much so it kept me up to the wee hours of the morning.
My third – the styling. If you have read Six Stories, then you will be aware of the style of this book. Of how fresh it feels. For the uninitiated, the book is written as a transcript of the six podcasts which make up the eponymous Six Stories true crime series hosted by Scott King. Inspired by real life true crime podcast ‘Serial’, Matt Wesolowski really has managed to recreate the tone and feel of the podcast in both books and it works brilliantly here. interspersed between the podcasts are further transcripts of private therapy sessions with Arla which have been leaked onto the dark web. These are almost as telling as the podcasts – the tragic devolution of a young mind. Or is it?
My fourth – the story. This is, in essence, a very compelling look at the idea of nature versus nurture. Much like its predecessor, this book, and its narrator, Scott King, makes no attempt to tell you what to think. It presents a series of facts and lets you decide for yourself. Did Arla murder because of psychosis or was she driven to kill by something else entirely? How deep rooted was her own kind of evil? Was she always destined to be a killer or did ‘the music and popular culture make her do it’? What did her family do to drive her to such a reprehensible act? Read the book and you decide. That is, in essence, what Scott King is trying to do throughout the story. To try to establish the why.
My fifth – the darkness. While there was a sense of foreboding and an almost oppressive atmosphere in the last book, here the author has taken it up a notch. Capturing the essence of urban legends and strange Japanese inspired games designed to allegedly invoke some kind of evil or otherworldly spirit, this book will have you hyper aware of each unexpected creak in your house. Make you more alert to the shape in the shadows, the one which is always just out of your peripheral vision. You know the one I mean? The one you’re sure you just caught moving but when you turn to look, has gone. That spine chilling moment when you feel as though someone has ‘walked across your grave’ as my Nan used to say …
If you are of a nervous disposition then you may wish to read with your light on because that chill you feel, the one which makes the hairs on your arms stand on end … that might not be a winter draft. Think ‘The Ring’ or ‘The Grudge’ or every other Japanese inspired horror movie you’ve ever tried to avoid watching. This … this is the theme threading through the book like a virus. Whatever you do, no matter your good intentions – don’t let them in.
My sixth … aw heck. I don’t need a sixth. If you don’t want to read this book by now, there is nothing I can do to persuade you. But you really should. This book is absolutely brilliant. Everything about it worked for me. I love a good mystery, I love a feeling of the supernatural which has been woven perfectly into the story. I love the fact that we are fed as many questions as answers, that there is both a tangible, if unknown, threat being made to the people who chose to speak, and an intangible one which may or may not be present. I love the way it highlights the dangers of the internet. The trolls. The keyboard warriors and internet vigilantes who seek to reclaim social justice with the touch of a keyboard. The way in which this story goes someway to explaining why Scott King goes to such pains to hide his identity …
But in truth, the sixth – MY sixth – reason for loving this book is that it’s a bloody good book.
A very bloody good book.
If ever a series of books was going to shake up the psychological thriller genre then this is it. This book is both inspiring and depressing in equal measure. Inspiring because of the sheer creativity and how assured and confident the writing appears. It made me want to do better and be better. Depressing because as a (moderately undecided and uncertain and totally out of my depth I know) aspiring writer, you kind of get left thinking – how the bloody hell do you compete with that?
Brilliant job Mr W. Brilliant job.
Now it may not come as much of a surprise but in case you hadn’t guessed I rather liked this book. So much so that I am going to be awarding it the very first Red Hot Reads badge of 2018.
With a very big amount of thanks to publisher Orenda Books for providing an advance copy of the book for review and to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of the tour. The book is available now in e-book and is released on 15th January in paperback. It can be purchased from the following links.
About the Author
Matt Wesolowski is 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- and US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature Feature, 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..
Don’t just take my word for it. Make sure to take a look at some of the other brilliant blogs taking part in the tour.