Hydra is the latest novel by Matt Wesolowski and a follow up of sorts to Six Stories, which I read and enjoyed last year. I loved the writing style of Six Stories, and the way in which a mystery story was told in a modern and inventive way, so I was looking forward to reading Hydra…
As in Six Stories we are presented with a crime, and through a series of podcasts, investigative journalist Scott King attempts to shed some light on events. But whilst Six Stories looked at finding those responsible for a mysterious disappearance, in Hydra we already know who is responsible for the crime. On a cold night in 2014, a 21-year old named Arla Macleod killed her mother, stepfather and sister in a brutal attack which cast a shadow over a small English town, leaving residents in shock and anger, and wondering what would drive a young woman to commit such a crime. Arla’s legal team cite diminished responsibility, and she is incarcerated in a mental health institution. However, as the story progresses we learn a lot more about Arla, as Scott King sets out to find the truth, and to discover what really drove her to commit such a disturbing, unprovoked attack. My interest was piqued from the offset, and I was intrigued to find out more about Arla, and to get to the bottom of this complex case.
Over the course of the novel, we get to see the perspectives of six different people through six episodes of Scott King’s podcast. These include Arla herself along with five witnesses who each have a different take on the case and on Arla’s personality. Once again I really enjoyed this format, the use of podcasts making the story very current and relevant to the digital age in addition to the efficient structure itself which makes for a gripping read. After each episode I was keen to go straight onto the next and along the way there were a few twists and turns and revelations as King delves deeper into Arla’s past and uncovers more and more snippets of information to keep the reader guessing. And whilst there is a resolution of sorts to some elements of the mystery, there is still a lot that could be down to reader interpretation, and there are various issues raised which could have all contributed to Arla’s state of mind. There include issues concerning family relationships, online experiences, and even supernatural occurrences. These elements combined made for an unsettling and atmospheric read. The presence of mysterious ‘black-eyed kids’ made for a creepy read and the presence of online ‘trolls’ again is relevant to modern day life and the downsides of the internet. All these factors add to the complexity of the Macleod Massacre case, as the reader, alongside Scott King, is left to question what is real, and who can be trusted.
I really enjoyed Hydra and found it to be a story which had me gripped quickly as I was eager to read each episode of the podcast. As with Six Stories, I really enjoyed the structure and the plot itself which was well paced with plenty to keep the reader guessing. I hope this isn’t the last time we hear from Scott King!