Books : reviews

Edgar Cantero.
Meddling Kids.
Titan Books. 2018

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 6 June 2018

A nostalgic celebration of horror, friendship and many-tentacled, interdimensional demon spawn

In 1977 the Blyton Summer Detective Club unmasked the elusive Sleepy Lake monster—another low-life fortune hunter who would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids.

By 1990 the former detectives are haunted by strange, half-remembered events that cannot be explained by a guy in a mask. Andy, the once-intrepid tomboy now wanted in two states, wants answers. To find them she will need Kerri, the former kid genius 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. Luckily Nate has not lost contact with Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star who was once their leader… which is remarkable, considering Peter has been dead for years.

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

Scooby-Doo meets The Famous Five meets Cthulhu.

As teens, the Blyton Summer Detective Club had adventures tracking down puzzles and unmasking the bad guys. Their final case was discovering who was behind the Sleepy Lake Monster. Since then, they’ve grown up, and grown apart, and fallen apart: one in jail; one an alcoholic drinking away the nightmares; one in an asylum; one dead. Did they really solve their last case, or was there more to it, that has caused their individual problems? The gang reassembles (yes, even the dead member) to put the past to rest permanently.

This could have been played purely for laughs, but, although there are some humorous moments, chasing down eldritch lake monsters is a serious business, with serious consequences. The serious parts, and the parts subverting various tropes, work much better than the attempts at (slapstick) humour, so it’s just as well they are in the majority.

The presence of the gang’s ghostly leader (even though he might be only in Nate’s head?), plus the current traumatised state of the gang, suggests early on that this isn’t going to be resolved by ripping off yet another costume from yet another con artist. So the main things to puzzle out are the identity of the bad guy, and how to save the world from total annihilation.

This starts off a bit slow, with the gang reassembling, but then crackles along. I enjoyed the trope subversion, in particular the way certain stock characters from the gang’s past had also grown up and changed. And also the way some at-the-time implausibilities are later shown to be plot-relevant. A fun reimagining.