“Gentlemen. I staged a haunting in an old mansion and dressed myself as a giant salamander to scare people away. I was captured by four teenagers and a Weimaraner. And I am sixty. Do you seriously believe I pose a threat to anyone?”
Edgar Cantero revisits the teen detective genre, as the damaged, now-adult members of the Blyton Summer Detective Club, and their dog’s grandson, return to face the thing they’d left undone. Because that wasn’t just Old Man Wickley in a costume that last summer, years ago; something stirs beneath the earth, a chthonic thing filled with evil intention, and it might get away with it, too, despite the best effort of these young meddlers.
Title: Meddling Kids
Author: Edgar Cantero
First published 2017
Andrea “Andy” Rodriquez gets together her old, damaged friends, and insists they revisit the Mystery of the Sleepy Hills monster. They all know more happened there than the official accounts claim, and the thing that waits dreaming might rise and cause an apocalyptic event.
The premise has so much potential: former teen mystery-solvers as traumatized adults? Brilliant. An ersatz Scooby Gang encountering Lovecraftian horrors? Of course! An old villain who prefers prison to the things he knows lurk outside our understanding of reality? Intriguing. A lesbian relationship between a character who seems an awful lot like the Famous Five’s Georgie and another who combines the best of Velma and Daphne? Uh…. Sure.
When the novel lives up to the premises, it’s a fun read.
One of its darker twists makes a very effective metaphor for the lingering effects of trauma.
I understand that the Said Bookism tainted most versions of the Teen Detective Genre, from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five through to Trixie Belden, the Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew. I understand Cantero is writing a parody of sorts of that genre. Nevertheless, 300+ of klunky, distracting dialogue attribution and awkward YA dialogue can be difficult to take. In fact, 300 pages is simply too long for the premise and Cantero’s uneven style. I found myself growing tired at times, despite the best efforts of Meddling Kids to dazzle me with gags and grip me with suspenseful pulp twists.
Originality: 2/6 How original is anything meta at this point? Every character and genre, it seems, has been crossed with Lovecraftian Horror. As for the teen detective genre, we’re more than twenty years since Mabel Maney gave us Nancy Drew: Lesbian Detective, the Hardly Boys, and Cherry Aimless. Blyton’s Famous Five have been parodied on BBC and in a recent series of books depicting the group as adults. Everyone has parodied Scooby-doo, including Scooby-doo. Cantero gets some credit for not slavishly imitating any one group. It would be difficult to miss the connections, especially to the Blyton’s Five and their American toon imitators, but we’ve got something approaching original characterization here.
Emotional Response: 4/6
Editing: 4/6 English is not the author’s first language. I suspect the books and stories he wrote in Spanish read a little more smoothly. …Kids shifts perspectives awkwardly, and underuses some excellent ideas.
Overall score: 4/6 I often enjoyed this book, which mostly intends to be fun. I don’t quite get the gushing reviews it has received in some quarters.
In total, Meddling Kids receives 26/42