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.
If I were to tell you that I was excited to receive Hydra, it’d seriously be one of the hugest understatements of my life. I absolutely loved Six Stories and Hydra was every bit as gripping and absolutely lived up to my level of anticipation. Matt Weslowski has a divine talent for grabbing you by the lapels and pulling you right into his story and I literally barely looked up until I’d turned the final page.
I love the way that Matt’s books give us a diverse range of voices so that we build up a steady accumulation of detail, just like you would in real life. I’m a real true-crime junkie and this definitely filled the gap that Serial, S-Town and Making a Murderer have left in my life. Arla is such a fantastic character that you really feel comes alive as you uncover more and more details about her story. In the same way that I felt a strong connection with Adnan after reading Serial, I really felt like I’d come to know Arla by the final page and although I’m firmly committed to my ‘No Spoilers’ rule, I can’t wait to have a good chat with someone else who’s read Hydra so that we can mull over it together and talk about what a fantastic creation it is.
It’s even the kind of book that is a physical pleasure to read – the matt blackness of the cover and the hypnotically beautiful design mean that Hydra appeals to all of your senses at once – it’s not just the story that made me love it so much but the book as an actual physical object. Just look how beautiful it is:
The fact that it was described as an ‘Episode’ of Six Stories also got me really excited as I thought about the fact that hopefully there are another four more where this came from to look forward to as I really can’t emphasise how much I loved this dark and delicious read.
Scott King is a fantastic character – even though on a conscious level I know that he is a device to keep the story going and to stitch all of the interviewees’ perspectives together I absolutely love the way that his questions coax the truth/s out of his interviewees. I am a huge fan of podcasts in general and particularly true crime and murder podcasts. Six Stories feels absolutely real in every way and I almost feel like I am ‘hearing’ the book that I’m reading like a podcast in the night – it really is so evocative and skillfully realised.
I also liked the way that like the very best True Crime podcasts – Weslowski allows space for our own feelings and responses. Arla’s actions are not tied up in a neat little package with the ‘why’ on top tied up with a pretty pink bow. There is enough room for us to ask ourselves questions about who we believe and why that makes Hydra such an involving and ultimately rewarding experience. I found myself genuinely being convinced to see things from a constantly shifting perspective as the novel bore me towards the conclusion and this was a rollercoaster ride that I definitely didn’t want to get off…
This book has a little bit of everything – mystery, social commentary, a ‘true crime’ feel, a fresh and interesting narrative structure, credible characters and a real sense of chill and menace. As you can probably tell, I loved Hydra and felt like sleeping with the light on for about four days after reading it. It is a book that you’ll want to pass on to other people so that they’ll have had the same experience you did, reading it for the first time. Matt Weslowski could be your favourite new writer. Buy Hydra here so that you can find out how brilliant it is for yourself
I’d like to thank the lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, it was such a privilege to spread the book love for a book that I loved reading so much. Karen from Orenda told me herself about hearing Matt’s pitch for the first time and yet again, her unerring feel for writing talent hits the bullseye. I bloody love this book and cannot recommend it enough. Get out there and experience it for yourself as soon as you can!
Writer on the Shelf
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.
You can follow Matt on Twitter here
Why don’t you check out some of the other brilliant blogs taking part in the tour?