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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Meddling Kids
by Edgar Cantero
Published by Blumhouse Book • July 11, 2017
336 Pages • ISBN 978-0385541992 • Hardcover

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Book description:
With raucous humor and brilliantly orchestrated mayhem, Meddling Kids subverts teen detective archetypes like the Hardy Boys, the Famous Five, and Scooby-Doo, and delivers an exuberant and wickedly entertaining celebration of horror, love, friendship, and many-tentacled, interdimensional demon spawn.

SUMMER 1977. The Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in Oregon’s Zoinx River Valley) solved their final mystery and unmasked the elusive Sleepy Lake monster — another low-life fortune hunter trying to get his dirty hands on the legendary riches hidden in Deboën Mansion. And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids.

1990. The former detectives have grown up and apart, each haunted by disturbing memories of their final night in the old haunted house. There are too many strange, half-remembered encounters and events that cannot be dismissed or explained away by a guy in a mask. And Andy, the once intrepid tomboy now wanted in two states, is tired of running from her demons. She needs answers. To find them she will need Kerri, the one-time kid genius and budding biologist, now drinking her ghosts away in New York with Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the club. They will also have to get Nate, the horror nerd currently residing in an asylum in Arkham, Massachusetts. Luckily Nate has not lost contact with Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star who was once their team leader… which is remarkable, considering Peter has been dead for years.

The time has come to get the team back together, face their fears, and find out what actually happened all those years ago at Sleepy Lake. It’s their only chance to end the nightmares and, perhaps, save the world.

A nostalgic and subversive trip rife with sly nods to H. P. Lovecraft and pop culture, Edgar Cantero’s
Meddling Kids is a strikingly original and dazzling reminder of the fun and adventure we can discover at the heart of our favorite stories, no matter how old we get.

Ever wonder what happened to the Scooby Doo gang when they grew up? It wasn't exactly a question I ever thought I needed an answer to until Edgar Cantero decided he needed to give his unique twist on what that adulthood could have looked like. In his beautifully bizarre (bizarrely beautiful?) novel, Cantero introduces us to the Blyton Summer Detective Club, a group of 4 teenagers and their dog who spend their summer vacations solving mysteries in idyllic Blyton Hills. We're familiar with the team: there's Peter, the jock; Nate, the nerdy outsider; Andy, the tomboy; Kerri, the smart one; and Sean, the faithful Weimaraner. After their final case in the summer of 77, involving a masked fortune hunter trying to find the buried treasure of Deboën Mansion, the kids suddenly hang up their spy gear and retire from mystery solving.

Jump ahead thirteen years, and those same crime solving sleuths of young are now disillusioned 20-somethings trying to make their way thru life, not really understanding where their lives went wrong. Peter is dead (even tho Nate still talks to him), Nate is institutionalized (he talks to a dead guy, after all), Andy is a wanderer with a somewhat criminal past, and Kerri is a bartender in a seedy bar, who is also taking care of Tim, Sean's descendant. There was something about that last case, the one they all can't stop thinking about, that wasn't quite right, that is at the root of their problems. When Andy finally decides that enough is enough and they need to go back to Blyton Hills to face these demons and reopen that last case, the group gets together one last time to try to bring sense and closure to that final, haunting case.

Of course, it's not as easy as just a guy in a mask, and as they face down eco-villainous corporations, primordial monsters, ecological disasters, and something that defies description, they begin to come to terms with what has been haunting them over the years. This sounds wildly simplistic as I type it out, and I'm leaving it that way. It's not simplistic in the slightest, but the joy in this book is in the details and following along with the BSDC as they uncover one clue after the next, taking them on a whirlwind ride that makes you unable to put the book down until the very last page.

Much like his previous novel The Supernatural Enhancements (which I am a huge fan of as well), Cantero takes his time with the story, creating a slow build that eventually spirals into this wild adventure, making unexpected twists and turns in the narrative so you never really are sure that you know what's going on. His characters are exactly who they appear to be, rifs of the Scooby gang, but he doesn't make clichés of them. These characters are all their own and as individual as can be. Eagle-eyed readers will also notice fun callbacks to the Scooby cartoons.

So, if you're looking for something with a little mystery, a little horror, with some supernatural hijinx thrown in for fun, you can't go wrong with Meddling Kids. And if you like this, be sure to check out Cantero's The Supernatural Enhancements as well.

I received a printed ARC of this book from the publisher for a fair and honest review.

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