Teenage sleuths are all well and good, but what becomes of them when they grow up? In Edgar Cantero’s “Meddling Kids” we meet the Blyton Summer Detective Club – a group of grown-ups who spent the summers of their formative years solving mysteries in Blyton Hills, Oregon.
Thirteen years ago, they solved their final mystery: the case of the Sleepy Lake monster. Two boys, two girls, and one dog put a man in jail for impersonating a monster and attempting to steal the fortune said to be hidden in a local abandoned mansion. On that fateful night, they solved their case, but the deeper mysteries of the mansion have haunted them ever since.
Now in their mid-twenties, the four members of the Blyton Summer Detective Club have gone their separate ways; they lead broken, unstable lives in various parts of the country:
- Peter Manner, the leader, moved to Hollywood and became a famous actor, but he was fighting his own demons and killed himself before the action of this book.
- Nate Rogers, the resident supernatural expert, has spent the intervening years checking himself in and out of mental institutions. He is currently at an institution in Massachusetts, where he is hoping to rid himself of a hallucination of Peter’s ghost.
- Kerri Hollis, the brains of the group, moved to New York where she works at a bar, plagued by nightmares and unmotivated to finish college.
- Andrea (Andy) Rodriguez – the muscle – is a vagrant with active warrants out for her in multiple states, and an as-yet-unrequited, decade-old crush on Kerri.
- Rounding out the group is Kerri’s Weimaraner, Tim, the great-grandson of the original mystery-solving dog.
Andy is convinced that something has cursed them, and that solving the mystery of the abandoned mansion is the only way for them to move on with their lives. She convinces Kerri and Nate to join her, and the three humans, one dog, and one ghost/hallucination make their way to the house in Blyton Hills where everything began.
“Meddling Kids” is a high-energy romp, complete with wacky hijinks and suspicious townspeople. It has mysterious messages, intricate traps, and secret passages. But it is also a horror story with actual monsters for our grown-ups to battle – and an evil force waiting to be set free. It’s Scooby-Doo in the world of Cthulhu.
The story moves forward at break-neck speed; the mystery getting more complicated at every turn. Cantero’s love of pop culture beats at the heart of this book, though some references are more subtle than other – I’m looking at you, Zoinx River.
Cantero bounces back and forth between traditional dialog and movie-script-style dialog (complete with stage directions) in a way that I found compelling. He plays with language throughout the book, making it clear that he had as much fun writing it as the reader does reading it. I look forward to seeking out more of Edgar Cantero’s work, and I hope that you give “Meddling Kids” at try.