On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the dark Wentshire Forest Pass, when his father, Sorrel, stopped the car to investigate a mysterious knocking sound. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.
Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. Journeying through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there, he talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know what happened to the little boy…
I would like to thank the author, publisher Orenda Books and blog tour organiser Anne Cater for the ARC in return for an honest review.
How to sum up my feelings about this book, the last I read in the closing moments of 2018?
A series of words come to mind,
What a way to end a reading year, with a story so marvellous that you’re left feeling elated and the fireworks that are going off outside, seem to be celebrating with you as turn the final page.
So why is it so good?
It is highly original in its format for one, the story is told as a series of podcasts, as online reporter Scott King looks into the historical case of missing Alfie Marsden. Scott interviews those involved and seeks to solve the mystery behind the boy’s disappearance. It has the feel of a true crime investigation to it, even though it’s a work of fiction and plays to that idea held by many true crime investigators, that real life is way scarier than fiction; what the writer achieves in my eyes is to disprove that, leaving me too scared to walk through the woods alone. As a result I was on edge from page one to the very last word.
The other wonderful thing is that Changeling has a dark and edgy feel to it, created by the way the writer builds the tension up gripping you so tight, you feel like you’re listening to the podcasts in real time, that your very much part of the story as it evolves. On top of this there are events within the story that cannot be explained, that are out of the ordinary, eerie and spine chilling, that left me feeling so on edge, I kept reading to find a resolution and some explanation. The wonder of this book, is that not only was I wowed by the ending, which resolved questions I had had since book one in the series, but I was left feeling chilled over a week after reading the book. Now that is master story teller at work, if days after turning the last page your still delightfully unnerved by a story you have read! It really was utterly spell binding!
The characterisation is perfection. Over the three books I have come to love on-line journalist Scott King, he is the right mixture of flawed, determined and elusive. You never quite know who he is, so secretive is he, so paranoid of the repercussions from his investigations, that he remains hidden not only from his listeners, but in many ways from us as well. What this book does is flesh him out, help us to understand him, but leaves him still a little bit of a mystery to us and himself. I feel sad that this may be the last time we read about Mr King, because his mercurial nature remains very much open to more stories. Why not a stunning televised crime drama, because King and the podcasts are surely a screen writers dream come true? Even characters such as Sorrel and Alfie Marsden’s mum, challenged me as a reader not to judge characters by the initial impression, but to allow the story to tell their tale.
This is bold and clever story telling at its best and it fulfils that much used phrase ‘a must read novel’. I look forward to where Matt Wesolowski’s talents will take us next and I feel confident it will be one heck of a ride.
About the author
Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller.
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