Hello folks and welcome to the final day of the Hydra blog tour! The latest offering by Mr Wesolowski is, as you would expect, a somewhat dark affair. Read on, friends….
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.
Those who have read Six Stories will know Wesolowski’s signature chilling style. I am not ashamed to say that, at 39 pages in, I found it so unnerving that I had to give up reading after sundown, which did make finishing it a somewhat longer affair! Even writing up the notes for this review made me shiver a little…
Hydra follows a podcast-style format, alternating between Scott’s narrative and the six interviewees he speaks with as he tries to understand more about the triggers behind the ‘Macleod Massacre’. The plot weaves the historical events leading up to the massacre with the testimony of onlookers, to present a series of important themes.
Mental health is, first and foremost, the predominant theme of the book. Arla, though demonstrating clear signs of mental illness, didn’t receive the help she needed as a teenager, resulting in the massacre that puts her in the medium-security facility. This dovetails with issues of emotional neglect, and the way that our relationships with parents, siblings and friends can impact our mental wellbeing.
The development of social media and its integration into, and effect on, our lives is also a significant part of the plot. How much of our lives do we put online, and how much more can people see than we realise? The online bullying and trolling that both the interviewees and King experience could not be a more relevant example of the dark side of the technology that has come to play such a part in modern society.
Arla’s character, described as ‘ethereal’ and ‘not of this world’ by the witnesses King interviews, is clearly troubled; battling her psychosis and trying to push away the recurring images of the freakish ‘black-eyed kids’ that haunt her dreams. The interviewees each add another dimension to our understanding of Arla’s behaviour, and build a picture of a troubled teenager who leans towards supernatural games as a means of escape from a difficult life.
Like its forerunner Six Stories, it’s so easy to imagine Hydra as a film script – the podcast format lends itself perfectly to progressing the story, in a tale made up of nothing but dialogue.
Wesolowski has carved himself a niche in the crime fiction genre, weaving mystery and horror to create another atmospheric and dark read.
You can buy Hydra from Amazon or Waterstones, and you can catch up on the rest of the blog tour from January by visiting the blogs below!