I have to say, I do love a Matt Wesolowski read. Changeling is part of his Six Stories series (there are three others: Six Stories, Hydra and Beast) and takes the form of a podcast transcript. Scott King is the creator of the podcast and our main narrator.
Opening sentence: When the letter comes, the handwriting on the front sends a tingle of fear from the base of your spine, up to the knobbly occiput at the back of your skull.
Changeling is Scott’s most personal story yet and this adds an intensity to the read. As Scott says, he finds himself wanting to solve this crime, rather than just report on it, as is usually the case with his podcasts.
The mystery of Alfie Marsden
On Christmas Eve 1988, seven year-old Alfie Marsden disappears. He is being driven home by his father, Sorrel through Wentshire Forest, a place swirling with folklore and legends – think witches, fairies, elves and strange happenings.
All I can tell you is that there’s something wrong with that forest.
Sorrel stops the car to check the engine, which is making a strange noise, leaving his son asleep in his car seat. In the few minutes he does this, his son disappears, seemingly into the forest. He is never found.
Scott King’s podcast talks to six people and gets six perspectives on this mystery. We discover more about Alfie’s parents, Sonia and Sorrel, meet Anne – a women who can shed some new light on the case and discover how a camping trip to the infamous forest heralded a big change in Alfie.
‘Sometimes,’ Dad said – and I’ll never forget this because it was such a strange thing to say – ‘Sometimes we wonder where this boy came from! What he’s done with our son?’
Scott develops a close relationship with Anne and she is the reason he has a burning desire to solve the mystery of what really happened to Alfie Marsden. This is a great new element in the Six Stories series – different from the other books, it gives a fresh, enticing update to the format.
The power of suggestion
What is so clever is how Matt Wesolowski weaves the supernatural elements into this story – it all just feels so believable and sends shivers down your spine. It’s a masterclass in the power of suggestion. If enough people believe the myths, legends and certain stories about certain people, they feed into the common consciousness and become powerful – whether they are true or not.
He tackles some serious issues too – gaslighting and domestic abuse – but with the sensitivity that’s called for.
Clever, perfectly paced and with a fantastic ending I did not see coming. I love it when a book gives me an, ‘oh my god’ moment, as this did. Another great mystery-thriller instalment in the Six Stories series.