Scott King’s podcast investigates the 1995 cold case of a demon possession in a rural Yorkshire village, where a 12-year-old boy was murdered in cold blood by two children. Book six in the chilling, award-winning Six Stories series.
In 1995, the picture-perfect village of Ussalthwaite was the site of one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, in a case that shocked the world.
Twelve-year-old Sidney Parsons was savagely murdered by two boys his own age. No reason was ever given for this terrible crime, and the ‘Demonic Duo’ who killed him were imprisoned until their release in 2002, when they were given new identities and lifetime anonymity.
Elusive online journalist Scott King investigates the lead-up and aftermath of the killing, uncovering dark stories of demonic possession, and encountering a village torn apart by this unspeakable act.
And, as episodes of his Six Stories podcast begin to air, and King himself becomes a target of media scrutiny and the public’s ire, it becomes clear that whatever drove those two boys to kill is still there, lurking, and the campaign of horror has just begun…
I’m a huge fan of Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series and I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the latest instalment, Demon, today.
This latest novel in the series looks at the murder of Sidney Parsons in 1995, exploring the crime – we know who but not why – on the 26th anniversary of Sidney’s death. It seems to be a surprisingly straightforward case from the initial testimonies – two young good-for-nothings, terrors of a small village, murder a young boy after an escalating pattern of deviant behaviour. Those interviewed have little good to say about Danny and Robbie, and it seems clear that opinions have been formed with little chance for the two to redeem themselves in the eyes of those who knew them.
Nothing is so simple in this series, and from the beginning Wesolowski offers an alternative view as we’re able to read the letters from a twelve-year-old Danny to his recently deceased mother. How Scott King has obtained these letters becomes clear later in the novel, but these give a different view of Danny and his friend, Robbie. In these, he comes across as the child that he is – one who lacks friends, who misses his mother, and whose father isn’t the talking type and who has no idea how to handle his own grief, let alone that of a young boy. These letters do evidence some bad behaviour, and yet there’s nothing to suggest the crime that Danny and Robbie go on to commit. It works brilliantly to cast doubt in the mind of the reader as to what happened that day.
We’re all aware of those tragic cases in which a child commits a violent act and Wesolowski neatly explores the moral dilemma associated with those who are convicted and who may be released with a new identity. On one hand, they’ve done their time and have been deemed fit for release (and let’s be honest, most likely under some degree of supervision). And yet I also understand the counterargument – the victim doesn’t get another chance, and nor does their family. Why should the convicted be given a fresh start? It’s difficult, and while I suspect that some feel remorse and that it’s a burden they carry with them, I can see that it may seem like salt in the wound to the grieving family. I love the way in which this is explored by the ever-neutral Scott King and the way in which the testimonies explore both sides of this debate. As with the whole series, it poses difficult and thought-provoking questions for the reader.
One aspect – possibly my favourite aspect – of the series is Wesolowski’s willingness to blur the lines between mystery, thriller, and horror. It’s something that the author does brilliantly and Demon is no exception to this. I love the way in the which the superstitions and folklore of old come to bear on the story of the “demonic duo” as we hear more about the village’s history and the rumours of curses and strange goings on. I found Demon to be a genuinely chilling read, one that had me jumping at every little noise despite the rational part of me knowing that there was (probably) nothing to it. Demon hit exactly the right note for me in this respect, and I don’t recommend reading it when home alone like I did.
As always, the format of the novel works brilliantly. Wesolowski uses the podcast format to drip feed information through to the reader, with some interviews reinforcing what’s been shared previously while others contradict that information and put a different spin on events. It’s a great way of exploring a mystery and allowing the reader to feel a part of it as more information comes to light, particularly as Scott King doesn’t pass judgement or influence the reader’s perspective at all.
Demon is another absolutely brilliant instalment in one of the best series of recent years. Highly recommended.
The Six Stories series
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- and 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 story 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 a bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK, and Australia, and a WH Smith Fresh Talent pick, and TV rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller, Changeling (2019), Beast (2020) And Deity (2021) soon followed suit.
Take a look at the other wonderful bloggers and bookstagrammers taking part in the tour: