Hydra by Matt Wesolowski

Last year, I read what I thought was a truly innovative novel, Six Stories, by Matt Wesolowski. I enjoyed reading it immensely and particularly liked the structure of six podcasts containing interviews with six witnesses to a crime mystery. I was very eager to read the next “Six Stories” novel, Hydra.

In Hydra, Scott King, the journalist and presenter of the Six Stories podcast series, is reviewing the case of Arla Macleod, who at twenty-one years old, bludgeons her mother, stepfather and sister to death with a hammer. Convicted of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility and put into a mental institution, Scott wants to see what led this young girl to kill her family. Scott interviews Arla and those who knew her; friends and acquaintances that may be able to offer an insight to reasons why Arla would become so detached from reality to the point where she kills her family. However, as his investigation goes on, it seems that some of his interviewees are holding back and when Scott starts to receive threats via text, it seems someone doesn’t want this case being scrutinised.

The structure of Hydra is what really makes this novel so gripping. Each podcast/chapter contains a transcript of Arla’s recordings to her psychologist at the secure unit, which shows her state of mind and times when she is more lucid than others. This offers the reader an insight into Arla’s innermost thoughts and it is clear that there have been events which have shaped her mindset. There are the interviews with people linked with Arla, and there are the interjections by Scott King. Intermingled with news reports, documentary excerpts and the text messages received by Scott, as a reader, you become the investigator reviewing the evidence put in front of you.

Wesolowski is a very skilled writer. Each podcast has enough information to carry the story forward but keeps enough back to keep the reader invested. The interviewees are not necessarily reliable, not least because they are relaying memories from years before, as well as the sense that some are holding back, and we are reminded about this at regular junctures by Scott King. As readers, we share Scott’s frustrations. Scott is our objective viewpoint and Wesolowski balances Scott’s interjections to perfect effect for the reader.

As a series, the “Six Stories” structure could continue indefinitely for as long as Wesolowski wants to write them, and I can guarantee I would be one of the first in line to read them. Each book can be read as a stand-alone very easily and anyone who has any interest in true crime documentaries would love these novels. Orenda Books has struck gold yet again with the wonderful discovery of Matt Wesolowski’s writing, with it’s unique structure and I look forward to reading more of his books in the future.