I finished this novel a few days ago, then I saw yesterday that Heather North, the voice of the original Daphne, had just passed away. Thus it seems that this is a perfect time to reflect upon Scooby Doo and his friends.
In terms of cartoon analogies, Meddling Kids is closest to the recent Mystery Inc incarnation of the series because of the edgier character relationships and mysteries faced. In the cartoons, there are mysterious helpers some of whom turn out to be evil, and sometimes the monster is really not human in a mask, and it all turns out to be a climactic race to star/prevent the release of an ancient evil something-or-other, and the villain who tries to achieve the end of the world as we know it may not be totally destroyed, and there’s a surprise final twist concerning a supernatural helper. This is all true of Meddling Kids.
The difference is that in the novel the kids are not really kids anymore, and because of the traumatic, now-inconclusive final mystery they faced as a team, each of the surviving members of the mystery solving Bryton Summer Detective Club faces some serious demons. Nate (aka Shaggy) has had himself committed to a mental institution in Arkham, MA (his escape is hilarious and Fred would be proud of the device mechanics involved, although Lovecraft would have cringed); Kelly (Velma) has stopped pursuing her advanced studies in biology to work dead-end jobs; Alex (Daphne) has broken out of prison but not before completing military training. Peter (aka Fred) is no longer living, but still present (only to Nate though for most of the book). One of the interesting things about the characters is that the girls especially are not terribly close to their original cartoon counterparts. Kelly is the “smart one” but she’s also on the pretty girly side (Alex at least thinks so), and Alex is a capable fighter, and the more rational tactician. The author also goes to a place in terms of character relationships that has been speculated of late (it concerns the gender preferences of one of the girls) but again takes it in a rather different direction than the original(s).
I liked this and my only complaint is that the action-chase sequences got a little muddled and not always clear about who-what was happening or involved.
It’s not totally derivative from the cartoons, but there’s enough direct allusions (such as the Zoinx River) to make the book a nice salute to the original concepts and characters. Naturally there’s a dog (a Weimaraner named Tim), and I gotta say, I did not see the way the author worked in the talking dog part, and I really enjoyed that.