A family massacre. A deluded murderess. Five witnesses. Six stories. Which one is true?
One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the north west of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, father 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 witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was a 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…
I read the first book in the Six Stories series – aptly named Six Stories – over a year ago. It was a breath of fresh air to the thriller genre, a modern take on the classic whodunnit. It was a novel that was full of twists and turns and one that kept me guessing right up until the very end. Despite thoroughly enjoying Six Stories, though, it has taken me well over a year to read its sequel, Hydra.
The first chapter – or ‘episode’ – is an interview with Arla Macleod, a young woman incarcerated in a mental health facility following the brutal murder of her family. In her interview, Arla recounts the night of the murder, mentioning two black eyed kids (aka, BEKs) who knocked on the back door of the family home minutes before she battered said family to death. The BEKs are something that come up again and again throughout the book and this is something that makes it difficult to catergorise in terms of genre. Is this a supernatural thriller? Arla’s adamant that one of the ghost games that she used to play as a teenager opened a portal of some sort, allowing these supernatural creatures into her life. When more BEKs show up at the back door, she runs to the garden shed and begins bludgeoning them… In actuality, though, she’s bludgeoning her family, leading to the question of whether or not the BEKs somehow tricked Arla into committing such brutal acts. Or is Hydra simply a thriller? Was the death of her mother, stepfather and sister at the hands of Arla and Arla alone? Over the course of the next five episodes, it emerges that something traumatic happened to Arla when she was on holiday as a teenager and, incidentally, it was on this holiday that she first started seeing the BEKs. It could well be that this traumatic event left Arla suffering from PTSD, which was left untreated, thereby leading to psychosis later in her life.
Is Arla being plagued by supernatural entities, or is she suffering from an extreme form of psychosis? Readers come away from Hydra not being entirely sure and this is what I enjoyed so much about this book. As Six Stories host Scott King says, it’s not an investigation of the crime, it’s a discussion. There are no definitive answers. The book is a puzzle, and the interviews are the pieces to it. Each individual reader will assemble these pieces differently and come to a different conclusion. My opinion? Despite how chilling Arla’s visions are, I’m very much of the opinion that the murders were a result of an untreated mental illness. I enjoyed the journey that led me to that conclusion, though. I like books that make me think.
My only real issue with Hydra was the ending. In the second episode, Scott reveals to his listeners that he’s been receiving anonymous threats via text, threats that grow in intensity with each passing episode. I don’t want to spoil the big reveal for those of you who want to read it, but I personally thought it was something of a let down, especially after the build up leading up to it. It felt somewhat anticlimactic. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed Hydra and I will most definitely be reading its sequel, Changeling.
Want to read this book? Head on over to Amazon to grab your copy, or order it through your local bookstore.