Source: Review copy and purchased copy
Publication: 20 January 2022
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…
Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series is something quite special and it really is worth reading all of them. Each can be read as a stand–alone, (though there is some gradual revelatory stuff about the interviewer, Scott King, if you read them sequentially).
Each story is presented as six interviews with people who are connected to the story under investigation. Those interviews are conducted by Scott King whose interested and empathetic voice seems to draw out his interviewees and get the most from their contributions so that you, as a reader, feel that you are getting real, in-depth information that is new.
In Demon, Wesolowski tackles perhaps his most difficult case yet. Certainly it’s the one that will cause the most hesitancy before the reader embarks on it. For that reason there is a trigger warning. But this is a book that you should read. The case is awful, but this book is about finding the truth behind the assumptions, speculation and gossip. It is also as much about the aftermath and how the public, the media and others react when bad things happen in a community.
Matt Wesolowski creates a spooky moorland backdrop in the Kilns at Ussel Back and imbues them with centuries of folklore and legend to give them a sense of lingering ghosts and malevolence which lends credence to the outlying suggestions of supernatural interference in this story.
But the real horror is in the tragedy itself. That children could be caught up in such an awful crime. That a young life was lost. This is in so many ways a heart-breaking story but we see so clearly how much more heart-breaking we have made it through our own desire to have a perspective on something we really know so little about.
And that desire is what fuels the media to fulminate and spout the ire and venom that always characterises such sad cases. Do we ever stop to ask ourselves why these things sell papers or garner listeners?
Verdict: Wesolowski is so good at making us think; insisting we examine all the angles and at what is really driving the judgements we make. Demon does all this and more. It’s a compelling and horrifying book, made all the more so by its crystal clear ring of authenticity. A must read.
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 set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at the 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. Changeling, the third book in the series, was published in 2019 and was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. His fourth book, Beast, won the Amazon Publishing Readers’ Independent Voice Book of the Year award in 2020. Matt lives in Newcastle with his partner and young son. Chat to him on Twitter @ConcreteKraken.