Today I’m excited to have a review for Hydra, a fantastic new novel by Matt Wesolowski, as part of the blog tour. Read on to find out what I thought, and keep following the tour to see what some fantastic book bloggers also thought!
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.
Hydra is such a unique, interesting story that I’m not entirely sure where to start talking about it! The premise is brilliant; set out like the transcript of a podcast which explores a shocking murder case (in which 21 year old Arla Macleod murdered her mother, father and sister), it consists of 6 main ‘sections’, each representing an episode of a podcast. Each ‘episode’ features investigative journalist (and podcast presenter) Scott King as he chats to various people who knew Arla or her family, and tries to find out more about the case and the people involved. Because we get these multiple views, the listener learns more about the case through various perspectives, instead of just one, and in such an intriguing way. Each character is interesting and/ or mysterious in their own way, and I couldn’t wait to find out what they might know – or not know, as it happens.
We find out plenty of information from Arla herself, and the reader peeks further into what appears to be a very damaged state of mind… but why did she end up this way? Was there actually any ‘reason’ she ended up killing her family? As Scott says at the start of the podcast, he aims to explore the case and try to find out more about the smaller details which might not have been talked about much before – he’s not necessarily setting out to find out ‘whodunnit’ because we already know! I really liked this element as it felt more realistic and added to the worryingly realistic feel of the novel.
The narrative fizzles with tension and creepiness – I don’t very often experience a genuine feeling of uneasiness when reading a novel, but Hydra delivered exactly that, and in just the right amounts to keep me wanting to read on. It’s never too ridiculous, despite there being seemingly odd elements due to the strange nature of Arla’s life and personality (I won’t say anymore than that as I don’t want to give anything away).
I absolutely love crime podcasts and have listened to many myself, so this really struck a chord with me – and it’s very topical as podcasts (and in particular true crime podcasts) are really growing in popularity. Hydra also includes topical subjects and information, such as social media and the digital world as well as the unfortunate rise of internet trolls, which makes it even more relatable.
I should also point out that you don’t need to have read Six Stories to enjoy this novel; even though I’ve heard SO MANY amazing things about it I just haven’t got around to it, but I didn’t feel it was necessary to enjoy this one (though I’ve no doubt it would reveal more about Scott King and his podcast which would be really interesting). So if, like me, you’ve bought Six Stories but haven’t yet got around to reading it due to a towering ‘to read’ pile, don’t let it put you off diving into this one! I am now even more excited to go back and read it!
Hydra stayed in my head long after I finished it, and I love how original, atmospheric and utterly absorbing the story is. It’s a testament to Matt’s writing, and I can safely say Hydra is a novel that you’ll struggle to tear yourself away from.
Many thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review, and for my place on the blog tour!
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.
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