Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Hydra by Matt Wesolowski

By Matt Wesolowski
Published by Orenda Books (15 January 2018)

Publisher's description
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…  

My verdict
Matt Wesolowski's Six Stories was one of my favourite reads in 2017. In my review, I wrote 'an eerie spine-tingling read. It's unpredictable and chilling and kept me guessing all the way through. I don't scare easily, but certainly found this book unsettling.'

Having just read Hydra, I can easily repeat those words again. Hydra is just as creepy and chilling - a perfect mix of crime, horror and supernatural - and just as unsettling. It follows the same brilliant format as Six Stories - six linked podcasts investigating a cold case (the Macleod Massacre). Investigative journalist Scott King interviews six different witnesses, including Arla Macleod herself - now held in a medium-security mental health institution. 

This a whydunnit rather than a whodunnit. Why did 21-year-old Arla Macleod brutally slaughter her parents and sister in an unprovoked attack? There seemed to be no doubt that she was the killer, but what led to the events of that fateful day? Will new evidence by these witnesses shed any light on the case? The investigation becomes personal when Scott King attracts the attention of an online troll.

As with Six Stories, Hydra felt very real, reading like the transcript of a documentary. I love how the author switches so easily between the different voices of the characters and the natural rhythm of their dialogue. I found myself 'googling' references to see whether they were fact or fiction as I really wasn't sure. This book reveals the dark side of teenage obsessive behaviour - do you really know what your teenagers are up to behind their locked doors?

Hydra is yet another powerful novel from Matt Wesolowski, the second book in his Six Stories series. It reads like classic crime, but with a modern twist. I'm hoping there will be more.

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