UPDATE: Below is my original review (July 2017) of the hardcover version of Meddling Kids. Nothing has changed with my review other than the great news that the book is now available in paperback along with a short excerpt from Cantero’s upcoming new novel, This Body’s Not Big Enough for Both of Us. (Review coming soon – book releasing in July 2018.) About all I can add to my review below is that upon a second reading… my love for this set of characters has grown immensely, and I caught a lot of clues and hints that I missed in the first read. If you grew up as I did watching those original meddling kids solve mysteries and unmask bad guys, you might want to give this a shot… I gave away my hardback copy to a friend, so I’m glad to have a paperback version in my library. Worth a read!
Mysteries. A masked villain. Overly-complicated traps. Two boys, two girls… and a dog. Sound familiar? Maybe not.
The Blyton Summer Detective Club pre-teens had a good run for a while, exposing local bad guys and their schemes. Peter, Kerrie, Andrea (but do call her Andy), and Nate, best friends gathering each summer at Kerrie and Nate’s aunt’s house in Oregon near the Zoinx Lake to explore, research, and expose a number of mysteries. And let’s not forget Sean the Weimaraner. Their final mystery together was exposing Thomas Wickley as the Sleepy Lake Monster and his ‘haunting’ of the old Deboen Mansion.
Thirteen years have now passed, and the kids have moved on with their lives. Well, some of them. Peter found fame and fortune and then took his own life. Kerrie’s plans for graduate school have been replaced by a full-time bartending job. Andy did a spell in the military, but is now on the run after escaping from a Texas jail. And Nate has made a habit of checking himself in to numerous mental hospitals. Sean is no longer alive, but his grandson, Tim, lives with Kerrie.
The team is spread out over the country, but Andy needs them to come together because the true events of that night in the Deboen Mansion have continued to gnaw at her. She just cornered Wickley in the men’s bathroom right after his release from jail to confirm her hunches… Wickley might have been guilty of trying to scare townsfolk, but there were other things going BUMP that night. Darker things. Things that the kids have tried hard to forget.
Now, the adult members of the Blyton Summer Detective Club have returned to Blyton Hills in hopes of solving some long-lost secrets. But they’ve also brought along their own secrets they’ve managed to keep from one another. Take Nate… he can see and hear Peter’s ghost. (Or is that because he’s off his meds since Andy and Kerrie sprung him from the institute?) Andy and Kerrie are dealing with their own personal issues. Someone (or some THING?) is leaving them strange messages as they explore the lake and mansion and surrounding caves. Memories of that night are returning, and they’re not warm and fuzzy. And a near-fatal encounter at the lake has them convinced they’re on the right track to solve the case of the Sleepy Lake Monster and the Deboen Mansion.
Meddling Kids is author Edgar Cantero’s second novel. I reviewed his first novel, The Supernatural Enhancements, a few years back and I was convinced this was an author to watch. Now, with Meddling Kids, I’m sold. As a kid who grew up watching those other four kids and a dog on Saturday mornings, I can tell you that Cantero has done a great job of extrapolating just how a mystery-solving group might fall apart and move on with their lives. He’s also done a great job of creating a superb mystery. Are supernatural forces at work? Or is it just some old man with a mask? Are the kids’ memories authentic… or are they remembering things incorrectly? I won’t say anything else for risk of spoiling the thing.
The book is not for kids, though. Definitely rated R for language, sexual situations, and horror/violence. But if you’re looking for a fun and dark mystery with some well-developed characters and a cool mashup with another horror mythology (and I’m not talking about the four kids and a dog mythology), you’ll probably love this story. And it appears that Cantero has, thankfully, left himself plenty of room for a sequel or two that I would grab and read faster than you can say “I would have gotten away with it, too…”
Note: I’d like to thank Doubleday for providing a review copy. Meddling Kids will be released on July 11, 2017.