Steve Taylor-Bryant takes on the case of the Meddling Kids from our friends at Titan Books, courtesy of author Edgar Cantero, and he’d have got away with it if it wasn’t for, oh you know the rest…
1990. The teen detectives once known as the Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in the Zoinx River Valley in Oregon) are all grown up and haven't seen each other since their fateful, final case in 1977. Andy, the tomboy, is twenty-five and on the run, wanted in at least two states. Kerri, one-time kid genius and budding biologist, is bartending in New York, working on a serious drinking problem. At least she's got Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the team. Nate, the horror nerd, has spent the last thirteen years in and out of mental health institutions, and currently resides in an asylum in Arhkam, Massachusetts. The only friend he still sees is Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star. The problem is, Peter's been dead for years.
The time has come to uncover the source of their nightmares and return to where it all began in 1977. This time, it better not be a man in a mask. The real monsters are waiting.
You remember when you’ve been on a great night out with friends? You’ve all sat after one too many cocktails, watching a couple of your friends hassling the DJ for last song, talking to your best friend (in my case often a stranger) about What If? What if… Die Hard had starred Ted Danson instead of Bruce Willis? What if Billy Joel had released more albums since 1993? You know the types of things. Well, Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero reminds me of one of these situations. It is basically a drunken conversation about Scooby Doo taken to its most extreme. What if the Scooby Gang all grew up and had mental health issues, alcoholism, and anger issues?
What Edgar Cantero has produced is a fascinating take on my upbringing’s popular culture and mixed it with a horror element that I wouldn’t usually be open to or seek out. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun reading a book. The characters are all heavily flawed, proper broken in their different ways which makes them even more interesting to read and to root for. The story is a classic horror tale about rising from the dead and isn’t as intense to read as maybe a more classic novel on Necromancy would be, which is a relief for a non-horror buff, but most of all Meddling Kids runs at a rapid pace. It runs at such a speed its hard to catch breath, its virtually impossible to not enjoy every element of the plot, and there is twist after twist, and you will find one of the gang that you like the most (for me it was Nate, because I have a mate called Nate and pictured him in every scene which was highly enjoyable).
There are beautifully subtle references to my youth in Meddling Kids, from the name of Blyton in the town, in a nod to Enid Blyton, to the original newspaper report being written by Nancy Hardy, that's Drew and Boys covered there, to the actual enactment of classic Scooby Doo with the masked criminal in the original 1977 case. The horror is well written but not too graphic that someone of somewhat scaredy-cat disposition can’t enjoy it, the plot is tight for something that could border on ridiculous, and the narrative is cinematic which allows for the story to play out in your minds eye as a great film (Captain Al MUST be played by Jeff Bridges). I’m not a horror aficionado so I can’t tell you if this will appeal to those that are, but I hope so, but as a comedic retelling of all that my generation hold dear it is an exercise in how to both poke fun and celebrate all that I love. Well done Mr. Cantero, well done sir.
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Image - Titan Books