Source: Review copy
Publication: 24th January 2019 from Orenda Books
On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the Wentshire Forest Pass, when a burst tyre forced his father, Sorrel, to stop the car. Leaving the car to summon the emergency services, Sorrel returned to find his son gone. 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, his son and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. He takes a journey 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 where Alfie is…
Intensely dark, deeply chilling and searingly thought provoking, Changeling is an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller, taking you to places you will never, ever forget.
If you have read the first two books in this series, you will know that each can easily be read as a stand-alone and that each takes the form of a serialised podcast. (I really must listen to the audiobook of these, I bet it is spectacular.)
The format works really well for this kind of storytelling. Our narrator, Scott King, looks at a cold case, not investigating, just interviewing six people close to the case to see what time and distance will offer up when he speaks to them.
Scott’s job is to ask the questions, non-judgmentally and to hope that in doing so the reader can reach some kind of truth by the end.
In Changeling, the atmosphere is set from the beginning when strange events around Wentshire Forest culminate in the disappearance of 7 year old Alfie Marsden.
Wesolowski is really good at building a haunting, cold and eerie atmosphere. His prose achieves the outstanding task of taking us from 0 to 80 on the tension rev scale within the first few paragraphs and believe me, it doesn’t ever drop below that.
He has the uncanny ability to merge fact and fiction, creating a sense of urgency and deep menace which builds until you need respite from the brain storm he has created.
Is Alfie Marsden a changeling – an ugly, stupid, or strange child left by fairies in place of a pretty, charming child? Certainly something changed him from a happy child into one that knows no contentment and the genesis of that change seems to hark back to his time in the forest.
But there are no faerie folk to interview here, so Scott King goes to those who were around at the time to see what can be understood from his interviews.
The picture that emerges is one that is indeed black and not at all pretty, and the characters he interviews are, in some cases, sorry excuses for individuals. Who is lying and who is speaking truth is for the reader to decide.
I thought I had a pretty good idea where this book was heading after I had got half way through but that changed as I slowly began to realise just how clever a writer Wesolowski is, and how good his narration is in creating the perfect storm.
I found Changeling to be dark, incredibly intense, full of supressed rage and emotionally gut wrenching. It blew me out the water. I rather think Matt Wesolowski is destined for stardom.
Verdict: Superb writing and plotting of high distinction. His best yet and I would recommend Changeling to anyone. A must read of 2019.
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 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 an Amazon 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.