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
Hydra is a different beast to the first Six Stories. It’s darker and much, much spookier. If Nana Wrack gave you nightmares the first time round, the black-eyed children in Hydra might just keep you awake all night.
I love the concept behind Hydra and Six Stories – you get a look at the events of that fateful night through a series of perspectives, each one shedding a new light on what you’ve seen (or think you’ve seen before). There’s always a concern that with such a strong debut with such an original concept that the second time round it might feel less fresh, but Matt has pulled off another magic trick, deftly showing you just what he wants you to see, exactly when he wants you to see it. Hydra may follow the same structure as Six Stories, but is utterly original and astonishingly good.
I’ve recommended the original Six Stories to pretty much everyone since reading it. Save me the trouble and just go read Hydra now. It’s a finely crafted mystery with more than a hint of the supernatural oozing through the pages, with an entirely satisfying denouement which will make you want to read it again immediately.
I said last year that Six Stories would be on my Books of the Year list, and it was. I’m confident that Hydra will do the same for 2018’s list.
Hydra is published by Orenda Books and is out now in ebook, and in paperback January 15th.