Author: Matt Wesolowski
Publication date: 24th January 2019
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
“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.“
What a ride! This book was so addictive and intense that I often found myself hurtling through the chapters, desperate for a resolution. Not only was the original idea of following the true crime through a series of podcasts alluring and atmospheric but the execution was just as brilliant with precise storytelling and a wildly unexpected plot twist at the end. Looking back, there is not much that can be criticised as the writing techniques used were flawless and the story line provoked a strong sense of urgency to uncover the mysterious circumstances surrounding Alfie’s disappearance.
One of the main aspects which made the book truly stand out for me was the emphasis on the personification of forest and the chilling nature of its contents. We learn through the experience of several interviewees in the podcasts that Wentshire forest has an alarming supernatural essence that many believe could explain Alfie’s disappearance. The research done in paranormal activity here was ingenious and very well inserted into the plot without verging on implausible but rather tempting the reader through a series of events which suggest that perhaps Alfie wasn’t the innocent child we all believe he was.
My personal opinion is that much of this book’s success is attributed to the format which it is written in which allows for the use of first person narrative and therefore a feeling of a closer relationship with the main character during each podcast recording. The storytelling is of the highest quality as each character involved in the podcast series shares their view on Alfie’s disappearance with the reader almost feeling like Scott King’s partner in attempting to solve the crime and discover the truth one recording after another. Although the storyline was captivating, the retelling of the night Alfie went missing through the more personal approach of a podcast created an atmosphere which could not have been produced if the book was written in a standard third person narrative tale and this unique format made for an even more fantastic story.
This book took over my thoughts completely as I was reading it and even the smallest noises made me jump as I read about the tap-tap-tap noises of the forest. A thriller requires a mixture of techniques to captivate and entertain and I firmly believe that Matt Wesolowski successfully managed to use all these right methods. Brave in concept and brilliant in execution, Changeling is a fantastic thriller that I recommend to everyone seeking a unique reading experience.