Meddling Kids

Posted: January 20, 2019 in Book reviews, horror
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By Edgar Cantero

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In the summer of 1977 in Blyton Hills, a small mining town in Oregon, a groups of child detectives known as the The Blyton Summer Detective Club, solved their final mystery when they unmasked a treasure hunter who was masquerading as the Sleepy Lake Monster in order to scare people away so he could search the abandoned Deboën Mansion for it’s supposed riches.

13 years later and the happy go lucky band of young detectives have long since gone their separate ways and all have problems. Kerri, the smart one, has issues with alcohol and struggles to complete her studies, nerd Nate is in and out of mental institutions, Andy, is a nomadic tomboy with anger management issues who’s wanted in several states, and Peter, the golden boy who made it big in Hollywood, has committed suicide.

Slowly but surely the gang come to realise that there was much more to their final case than they thought at the time, and that the horror of what truly happened that summer has haunted them ever since. Andy convinces the survivors to team up once more to uncover the real story, and so the trio, accompanied by the Weimaraner, Tim, descendant of their original dog, set off for Blyton Hills, but what they’ll find there goes way beyond a man in a mask, and these meddling kids might have bitten off more than they can chew.

For someone who grew up with Scooby Doo, the Famous Five, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, there’s an obvious draw to a story that riffs on the child detectives of my youth, and mixing that with a tale of Lovecraftian horror should have been the icing on the cake.

Shame to report therefore that, despite an engaging premise, this was a book I struggled to love. Which doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it in places, I just wish it had been more than the sum of its parts.

The central premise of a bunch of plucky kids struggling to find a place in the real world is intriguing, as is the post-modern slant. The trouble is this has been done to some extent, by Scooby Doo itself which in recent years reinvented itself by having real life monsters. It doesn’t help that the characters never seem more than ciphers, often the most interesting one was Tim.

The real problem however is Cantero’s prose, which is all over the place, he can’t even keep his style in place, for the most part it has a 3rd person narrative, but every so often, for no readily apparent reason except that perhaps he was bored, Cantero slips into a screenplay format, complete with camera directions and screenplay style dialogue. It’s incredibly jarring, as is Cantero’s purple prose and overabundance of allusions: Kerri’s hair is practically a character in its own right given the amount of description it gets. I’m sure some would say Cantero has a unique voice, but for me it was annoying and too often lifted me out of the story.

The story is well handled, though it does meander somewhat, and the monsters suitably monstrous in a Silent Hill kinda way.

It’s a decent enough read, but style over substance only really works if you like the style, and I merely tolerated it.

Maybe he’d have got away with it, if it wasn’t for this meddling reviewer?

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