It is my great pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for Changeling, the very latest episode in Matt Wesolowski’s absolutely fantastic Six Stories series. My thanks go to publisher Orenda Books for providing an advance copy for review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for including me in this blog tour. Before I share my thoughts, here is what the book is all about:
The Book Bits
On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the Wentshire Forest Pass, when a burst tyre forced his father, Sorrel, to stop the car. Leaving the car to summon the emergency services, Sorrel returned to find his son gone. 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, his son and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. He takes a journey 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 where Alfie is…
Intensely dark, deeply chilling and searingly thought provoking, Changeling is an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller, taking you to places you will never, ever forget.
I read this book way back at the end of November and I will be brutally honest, I had no idea how to write a fitting review then, and I am none the wiser now as I sit here, staring at my skinny Latte in Costa Coffee (other cafe chains are available), just four days before the review is due to go live. I mean, what can I say about this series of books that hasn’t already been said, and how do I find a style of review that hasn’t already been done? I said when I reviewed Hydra last January that Matt Wesolowski’s writing style and ability to draw me in made me want to be a better reviewer and to try harder to be a better writer. I was in awe of his skill to craft a chilling, compelling, and heck, sometimes terrifying story. Nothing has changed. Well apart from me. Now I’m even more scared of making a horlicks of things 😉
If you have read any of these books you will be used to the format by now. Through a series of six weekly podcast episodes, narrator, or rather presenter, Scott King, introduces the (reader) listener to a criminal case of some form or another. In Six Stories, it was the unsolved murder of teenager Tom Jeffries. Hydra examined the story behind a very high profile murder case and what it was that drove Arla Macleod to kill her entire family. In Changeling, Scott King is persuaded to look into the disappearance of a young boy, Alfie Marsden. Now King does not usually give into pressure in terms of the cases he reports, upon but there is something about the case of little Alfie which strikes a chord with him, and the mystery of the woman who wrote to him intrigues him enough to bring the case front and centre.
And this is where the story begins. And all I am going to say about the plot as this is a series of books that you need to read (or listen to as the audiobooks are superb) yourselves in order to fully understand the intricacies and subtle hints that the author drops throughout the text, as well as to experience the ever increasing sense of foreboding and dread which builds with every turn of the page. This is a truly harrowing story, and not only because of the creepy nature of the setting from which young Alfie disappeared. Taken from a secluded wooded area in the Shropshire/Cheshire borders, this alone can set your nerves on edge. Now this setting, for me at least, is very local, and if the woods actually existed (at least as they are known in the story) then they would be only a twenty to thirty minute drive from my front door. Knowing the area as I do, I really feel like Matt Wesolowski has brought it to life through his narrative, and I can imagine the fear that Alfie would have felt on the night he disappeared. There are many woods around these parts I’d not like to be in after dark. Add in the urban legend and disturbing goings on which inform this story, told by witness after witness, and you are set for a really dark and tense story.
As with most rural counties, Shropshire is alive with myths and legends, of ghosts and the like. Madam Pigott is one very local to me that springs to mind, and this idea of local folklore has been captured beautifully in the story. But there is far more going on than just the legend of the Wentshire Forest Pass and the Wentshire Witch, and to say much more about it would give away key parts of the story so I will leave it there. What I will say is that Mr Wesolowski is so adept at creating tension and in building strong and believable characters who will elicit both your sympathy and your loathing, that if you are anything like me you will experience a myriad of emotions while reading, Everything from disbelief to disgust. From fear laden apprehension to shocked acceptance at the final revelations. It really is a story that will manipulate you as a reader, much a the characters within seem to manipulate each other. Scott King has a fight on his hands to get to the heart of this story, especially as some of the key witnesses are not willing to talk to him. However, no matter how hard he digs, I don’t think anything that he uncovers really prepares him, or the reader, for the truth.
This really is another brilliant story that I urge you to read. If I were to look at the books in terms of true spine-tingling tension, then Hydra just pips Changeling for me on that score as those black eyed kids would freak anyone out, but I have to say that this book takes a very close, very complex and very cleverly executed second place. Matt Wesolowski has really found his stride and, much like the other books in the series, Changeling is completely unique, with a tight narrative, dominated by unnervingly atmospheric tension and with a magical blend of crime, thriller and (a trace of) horror fiction, that really sets the author out there as one of the most exciting things to happen to crime fiction.
I am so thrilled to be reading in the Six Stories/Orenda Books era. Most definitely getting one of these …
Two years on the bounce … Top stuff Mr W!
About the Author
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 story 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 WH Smith Fresh Talent pick, and TV rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller.
Author Links: Twitter
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