Demon by Matt Wesolowski #BookReview #BlogTour

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 delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Demon today. My grateful thanks to Matt Wesolowski, Orenda Books and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

Demon is the sixth book in the Six Stories series and again finds podcaster Scott King examining an old crime. The format - six episodes featuring six people somehow connected to the case - may now be familiar, as are the chilling occultic elements to the storyline but Matt Wesolowski's writing remains as fresh and compelling as ever. Demon is another standalone but as each book has an uncanny way of hooking its claws into its readers, I suspect that those new to the series won't be able to resist going back to the earlier novels!
Demon might be the closest this series has come to being a true horror novel, perhaps because what is more horrific than children killing other children? At the start of the book, Matt Wesolowski even advises that the content matter includes (fictional) violence towards children and animals which may distress some readers. The facts of this case – two twelve-year-old boys savagely beat another boy to death – means there are obvious parallels to Jamie Bulger's murder and given the intense interest in the case in the past and present, it's a fair comparison despite the victim here also being twelve rather than a toddler. However, despite the grim subject matter, Demon is not an exploitative book and as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that it's arguably more about examining the response to tragedies like this rather than trying to find definitive answers as to why children become killers.
Scott King likens his investigations to raking over old graves but it earns him some criticism here, particularly as it's the twenty-sixth anniversary of Sidney's death. This case is still an emotive one, angering many who believe that Danny Greenwell and Robbie Hooper's controversial release from the secure units they were imprisoned in until 2002 indicates that the law was too soft on them. Alongside the chapters which reveal what occurs in the six podcast episodes there are also newspaper opinion pieces and angry emails from somebody who warns King he is going too far. At first it seems as if the book might be a condemnation of true crime programmes but while it's thought-provoking to consider why they are so popular, Matt Wesolowski subtly twists the narrative into a damning critique of the pearl-clutching hypocrisy of the moralising newspaper commentaries that cynically appropriate tragedies such as this. 
As King hears from those who knew the two boys who became known as the 'Demonic Duo', a frightening picture of a village darkened by its history of deaths, witchcraft and demonic possession emerges. This is probably the most ambiguous Six Stories novel to date and there are some deeply unnerving allegations made during the course of the investigation. I'll leave you to decide for yourselves whether the accounts are true or some sort of mass delusion but there can be no doubting the potency of such beliefs, especially in a small place like Ussalthwaite where warnings become shared teenage retellings and urban legend.
Matt Wesolowski does what he excels at again in Demon and shines a light into these dark places; what he discovers might not be comforting but isn't it better that we confront and examine these issues? This melancholic, immersive read acknowledges that the murder of a child by other children is a tragedy on so many levels, understanding that while we should be able to hold more nuanced conversations about what drives young people to crime and subsequently their punishment and rehabilitation, the emotional, painful demands of such cases still retain a tight grip on our society. There are no easy answers offered here but this poignant, challenging novel is another sterling addition to this outstanding series and I think may even be my favourite – against some stiff opposition! The intriguing conclusion means that I'm not sure what Matt Wesolowski plans to write next but I know I'm guaranteed to read it. Very highly recommended.

Demon is published by Orenda Books, it is available now in ebook and will be out in paperback on 21st January 2022. Purchase directly from the publisher's website or from Hive, Waterstones, Kobo, Amazon or from your favourite independent bookshop.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

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 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, and is currently working on the sixth book in the Six Stories series.


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