Monday, 15 January 2018

Hydra by Matt Wesolowski

Our monsters no longer hide under the bed

In his first full length novel Six Stories (2017) Matt Wesolowski introduced readers to his serial podcast style of writing in which one story is viewed from 6 different perspectives. This investigative style, led by presenter Scott King, is less 'whodunnit' and more of a deeper discussion into why. In new book Hydra, Scott King is back with an even darker case but will the Six Stories style of storytelling work second time around?
Hydra is concerned with the McLeod Family massacre, a case in which a young girl, Arla Mcleod, violently bludgeons her parents and sister to death at home. Over the course of the following 6 stories King investigates the case from the perspective of key players including people who knew Arla at the time, those who have cared for her at a high security mental health facility and with Arla McLeod herself.

With his unique take on serialisation Wesolowski creates pace and riveting tension throughout the novel. Those with a keen eye for detail will appreciate the meticulous attention to fact which Scott King uses to scrutinise his guests; never have the motives of a seemingly psychopathic protagonist been so well explored. Just when we're at risk of the transcripted interviews becoming overused or trite we are offered another fresh perspective that changes the course of the narrative completely. Suspicions come and go and doubts about the reliability of the narrators are rife.

Arla McLeod makes for an interesting anti-hero with her alternative taste in fashion, difficulties making friends and obsession with an edgy rock band. Is she simply a misunderstood adolescent responding to the lack of aspiration surrounding her life in a small post-industrial Northern town? Is she caught up in the influence of online gaming and trolls or was she, in fact, the victim of something far more sinister? And who are the Black Eyed Kids?

In Hydra Wesolowki plays on some prescient themes around internet trolls, sub-cultural trends and the isolation of kids who fall outside the mainstream but in doing so he writes a gripping and compelling novel. Wesolowski picks up the pen from 20th Century crime thriller writers like Stephen King with an deep understanding that our monsters are no longer under the bed but hiding on the dark web.

Hydra is more developed and nuanced than 6 Stories and Wesolowski clearly has a talent for good old fashioned story-telling.  

Hydra (Six Stories) by Matt Wesolowski published by Orenda Books, 320 pages.     

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