Published by Orenda Books
Publication date – 15 January 2018
Source – review copy
A family massacre
A deluded murderess
Which one is true?
One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the northwest of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, stepfather 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 key witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was as 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 kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a murderess…
Dark, chilling and gripping, Hydra is both a classic murder mystery and an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller that shines light in places you may never, ever want to see again.
One night Arla McLeod takes a hammer and kills her family. Now in a mental health institution, Arla has agreed to speak to Scott King, and appear on his Six Stories podcast. Will the truth about that night be revealed or will the secrets behind the killings remain silenced?
Hydra is the second book in the Six Stories series, though each can be read as a standalone. Told in podcast form, each chapter or section is one of the six stories, six narrations that give the story six differing viewpoints and a rounded narrative for the reader, bringing the whydunit into the digital age.
Because of the way the story is told, the narrative is quite personal. The guests on the podcasts each have their own distinctive way of speaking. Inflections, affectations and words that more often appear in speech than in writing are used, telling the reader they are listening to the character rather than reading their words.
The focus is very much on Arla. Whilst Alice and her parents are dealt with, the story really revolves around why she did it, rather than who she did it to. Whilst of course the victims appear in the novel, created by hearsay they only appear as portrayed by those who didn’t know them.
There is an abstract feel to the book, given we are reading pockets of information, pieces that may not fit the puzzle as a whole. This doesn’t make it any less readable, it simply adds to the creepiness of the story.
Hydra tackles many issues of society today, the age old fitting in, bullying, the sexual objectification of women, the dangers of the internet and the toxicity of social media. Here the hydra are internet trolls, for every one cut off, two grow in it’s place. It is also represents the truth. For every version of the truth uncovered, another two are revealed as each person shapes the version of the truth they know.
This is a ghost story without the ghosts. Or rather, the ghoul haunting the tale is the past and how we deal with the demons when they appear before us.
I look forward to reading more from Matt Wesolowski soon.