- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Orenda (15 Jan. 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1910633976
- ISBN-13: 978-1910633977
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 51 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 378,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Hydra (Six Stories) Paperback – 15 Jan 2018
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"Wesolowski does a fantastic job of rendering these chapters to seem like you really are listening to a true crime podcast. Each character's voice is so palpably unique that it's hard to believe you are not just reading a transcript. His mastery of atmosphere also extends into the supernatural elements of the novel. While mysterious black-eyed children are a frequently used horror trope, Wesolowski weaves these creepy tales together so masterfully that you want to abandon all rationality and actually believe that the occult occurances are the reason behind this entire story, despite your brain telling you it can't possibly be true. It's also creepy enough that it will affect you, even if you read a lot of horror! " -- The Crime Review
"Four years after an infamous massacre journalist Scott King begins a podcast to unpick the story. With five witnesses and six stories, will he be able to discover the truth?" -- Sunday Express Magazine
"Wesolowski's debut, Six Stories, had the ingenious idea of using a true-crime podcaster as its sleuth. This sequel sees the return of Scott King, here investigating why a young woman bludgeoned three members of her family to death. Thanks to Wesolowski's mixture of supernatural elements and first-class plotting, this is one of the most addictive of new crime novels." -- S Magazine
"Skillfully draws readers into a story of increasing depth and force." --Publisher's Weekly
"Matt Wesolowski is the next Stephen King... " -- Antti Tuomainen
"A complex and subtle mystery, unfolding like dark origami to reveal the black heart inside" -- Michael Marshall Smith
"Wesolowski evokes the ominous landscape and eerie atmosphere of the area with sharp, direct prose... There is more than a whiff of modern horror here, and The Blair Witch Project feels like a touchstone ... impeccably crafted and gripping from start to finish." -- Doug Johnstone, Big Issue
"Bold, clever and genuinely chilling with a terrific twist that provides an explosive final punch." -- Deidre O'Brien, Sunday Mirror
"A genuine genre-bending debut." -- Carla McKay, Daily Mail
"A new style of mystery, one that encapsulates the twenty-first century, the Internet, and social media... a dazzling fictional mystery." -- Foreword Reviews
"A slim volume rich in nuances and filled with deep passion for folklore and myths. In this spooky and eerie debut Matt Wesolowski introduces a very interesting contemporary concept of narrative structure which keeps the readers on their toes." -- Crime Review
"This is one of the best novels I've read this year, perhaps in memory." -- Nudge Books
"With a unique structure, an ingenious plot and so much suspense you can't put it down, this is the very epitome of a must-read." -- Heat
"Wonderfully horrifying... the suspense crackles." -- James Oswald
"Wonderfully atmospheric. Matt Wesolowski is a skilled storyteller with a unique voice. Definitely one to watch." -- Mari Hannah
"Dark, mysterious and definitely not without elements of horror, I was more than a little unsettled while I read it. A genre-bending book, with some hauntingly threatening prose ... I could not put it down. Highly recommended! " -- Bibliophile Book Club
"A stunning piece of writing chock full of atmosphere, human insight and beautiful writing. Take a note of this guy's name. He's going to be huge!" -- Michael J. Malone
"Sharp as a butcher's knife, cutting straight through to the nerve of its reader. A read-in-one-sitting experience that will surely inspire many authors to explore new methods of narration." -- Bleach House Library
"Original, inventive and brilliantly clever." --Fiona Cummins
About the Author
Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. He is an English tutor and leads Cuckoo Young Writers creative writing workshops for young people in association with New Writing North. Matt started his writing career in horror and his short horror fiction has been published in Ethereal Tales magazine, Midnight Movie Creature Feature anthology, 22 More Quick Shivers anthology and many more. His debut novella The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in. 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, UK and Australia.
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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.
Scott King and his Six Stories podcast where every other journalist before have failed is given the opportunity to interview the infamous Arla Macleod who as a twenty-one-year-old on a November night in 2014 murdered her mother, stepfather and sister in a brutal killing dubbed the ‘Macleod Massacre‘. Arla was subsequently found guilty and sentenced with diminished responsibility for the crime. Now residing for the rest of her life in the medium security mental-health hospital of Elmtree Manor.
Hydra isn’t a book where you are looking for the killer’s identity, we already know that Arla Macleod brutally killed her family. So, the question Wesolowski is asking of us isn’t Who? But, why? Why did she do it? Why did Arla enact this horrific and unprovoked killing? What drove her to murder her own family? A psychotic episode? A supernatural force? Were there other mitigating circumstances? And finally, is Arla telling the truth?
Arla’s own account is one story out of the six and, then, you have the five remaining people left to tell their story who in some way all had a connection with and knew Arla. With each new interview and interviewee, the veil is pulled further back on Arla offering a new look, different reasons, thoughts and views as to what led Arla down the road to commit murder and why.
The interviews conducted by King are each fascinating in their own way and give us additional insights into Arla, her personality, her school life, her family life, was negligence involved? Her obsession with the musician, Skexxixx, his dark lyrics and the meaning and the sense of identity that she found in them. Her infatuation with dangerous occult games and rituals. Could the amount of time that Arla spent online chatting with people in groups and forums have had any effect on her? Did she have an undiagnosed mental health condition? And, finally, what occurred leading up to the sinistrous night that culminating in her killing her family. This allows Wesolowski to slowly build both the tension of the story and the portrait of Arla as more and more of the mystery surrounding who Arla is and the ‘Macleod Massacre’ is revealed.
Along with the six podcasts we are also given more depth and insight into Arla thanks to her own recorded personal thoughts from sessions with a psychiatrist.
The host, Scott King likes his anonymity. He hasn’t created Six Stories in the hope that it will make him famous. No, he created the podcast to ask questions and look at old crime cases in a new light. His anonymity, however, is thrown into doubt by his series into the Macleod Massacre when he starts being trolled, receiving threatening text messages both to his mobile phone and on the Six Stories social media warning him to stop with the series. Add into this that the interviewees themselves often seem afraid, fearful, on edge and reticent coming across like they are reluctant to divulge certain things to King. This all adds to the pervading sense of unease that is felt throughout Hydra, something tangible lurking in the background as the picture of Arla unfolds.
The horror and supernatural element of Hydra come from the addition of the black-eyed kids (BEKs). The BEKs have randomly haunted Arla ever since a childhood holiday in Cornwall years before the killing took place. The BEKs are a group of children with porcelain pale skin and empty dead black eyes appearing at night, knocking on doors and windows and asking to be let into your vehicle or house. Now, I hadn’t heard of the urban legend surrounding BEKs until I read Hydra so I had to Google them (it needed to be done) and damn, there is some creepy and weird stuff to do with them on the web! If you aren’t expecting any visitor’s but you hear a knocking on your door then ignore it and don’t let the creepy little kids in!
Hydra is formatted to read like the transcripts of the interviews conducted by King, it’s an inventive and original approach (at least for me in books) that works really well creating an atmospheric and chilling read. I knew that I was reading a work of fiction but I often had the feeling that I was reading ‘real‘ transcripts and accounts and not a ‘story‘ adding an air of authenticity to Hydra.
Wesolowski’s fresh style of writing and storytelling, the characters he creates who all have their own individual voices, the various accounts, the probing questions that King asks, the answers, his commentary on the answers, the information that he is given, the musings, his laying out of the knowledge, his putting together the pieces of the puzzle and the forming of the character profile of Arla all add to a tragic, occasionally unsettling yet ultimately fascinating read.
I loved Hydra! It is clever, devilishly dark, mesmeric and oh so sinister.
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