Thirteen years ago, a scrappy pack of teen detectives (and their faithful dog) solved a lake-monster mystery in a sleepy northwestern town. The guy in the monster suit would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!
Smash-cut to thirteen years later, and our teens are far from thriving members of society. Plagued by nightmares and hallucinations, powered by alcohol and violence, the twenty-something remnants of the Blyton Hills Detective Club are coming to a powerful realization: they caught the wrong guy. Not only was it the wrong guy, it was the wrong entity all together: maybe the problems up at Sleepy Lake was crawling with monsters- and none of those monsters were men dressed in rubber suits.
What may appear to just be a “gritty reboot” of the Scooby Doo canon is actually a surprisingly funny, emotionally resonant, and pop-culture obsessed mash-up of the classic cartoon and eldritch horror. Cantero plays fast and loose with time and reference; the book takes place in 1990 but there’s a lot of modern pop-culture info mixed in like a scavenger hunt. He also takes amusing liberties with language; in his world, any word can be “verbed: into action- a style that I do enjoy. Also, I am always going to be a sucker for an animal with a person’s name; in this case we are treated to Tim, the group’s trusty Weimaraner.
Since it is a full-blown b-movie-esque mash-up, it does struggle a bit with leaning on tropes and stereotypes; we are given the tough-talking Latina who takes no shit, magical Native Americans, grown-bully-who-is-now-a-loser, hard-core “mental patient” generalizations, and a slightly-off depiction of trans identity. There’s nothing truly hateful, but it does fall into some lazy depictions and often lacks empathy.
Meddling Kids is a fairly quick read, and it’s broken into sections that feel like “episodes”; it’s easy to take a break and to jump back in without feeling lost. Plot twists whip around every corner; every solve is just a hidden false start of another mystery. Cantero has written a spin-off, but I am not knocking down any doors in an attempt to read it. It was a fine way to spend a morning, much like it’s much-beloved Saturday morning cartoons of yore.