Saturday 4 September 2021

#CBR13 Book 32: "Meddling Kids" by Edgar Cantero

Page count: 442 pages
Audio book length: 12 hrs 54 mins
Rating: 4 stars

CBR13 Bingo: Book Club (the July selection of my fantasy/sci-fi book club here in Oslo. I read it in early June)

Official book description:
The surviving members of a forgotten teenage detective club (and their dog) must reunite as broken adults to finally solve the terrifying case that ruined them all and sent the wrong man to prison. Scooby Doo and the gang never had to do this!

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. Keri, one-time kid genius and budding biologist, is bartending in New York, working on a serious drinking problem. At least she s got Sean, an excitable Weimeraner 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.

Long-time readers of my reviews know that I'm not a huge fan of the horror genre. Luckily, this book is more in the vein of Stranger Things or Cabin in the Woods, a mix of comedy and horror that makes it a lot more palatable for me, even as I cringe occasionally. It doesn't hurt that Cantero, originally a Spanish novelist, in his first English novel has a way with language that really appealed to the language nerd in me, even as he occasionally described eldritch horrors in a little bit too much detail. This is also a book full of pop culture references, and for someone who read and re-read all of Enid Blyton's Famous Five novels at an early age and then graduated to Nancy Drew, there are a lot of fun nods, not just the place where the children used to meet up being called Blyton Hills (the dog is even called Tim!) I never really watched a lot of Scooby Doo, but the nods to this are also obvious.

This was the July selection of my local fantasy/sci-fi book club and I ended up listening to the audio. Kyla Garcia does a good job with the narration, which isn't always easy as the POV switches between all of our protagonists, as well as some supporting characters. The plot is action-packed and suitably creepy, with your teenage detective gang turned twenty-somethings with clear trauma responses to some of the bad stuff they experienced as adolescents. While some of them are reluctant, they go back to the place of their many childhood adventures to revisit their last big case, which is still haunting all of them in various ways. The town is no longer as idyllic as it once was, and it becomes clear that something sinister is indeed still lurking in the wilderness.

Yet again, I'm reviewing this far too long after finishing it to remember a lot of specific details, but the book has a fun cast of characters, some exciting and interesting twists, decent queer representation, a few jump scares, an excellent dog companion, some Lovecraftian monsters and kept me entertained throughout. The other members of my book club who finished the book also enjoyed it, but we agreed that it wasn't necessarily the deepest or most nuanced work of fiction we'd ever read. It's a fun, pop-culture infused read, and I'll keep my eye out for more of Cantero's English-language work. 

Judging a book by its cover: Occasionally, you can judge a book a bit by the cover. There are most certainly tentacly horrors from the deep featured in this novel, as well as a group of plucky protagonists with a lot of issues to work through. The bright neon colours are fun, as are the contents of this book. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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