Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
A Scooby Doo inspired tale of Lovecraftian horror? Sign me up!
Okay, let’s get one thing straight. This is not a straight 1-1 Scooby Doo homage. The basic characters are there, but they also have distinct and wholly unique aspects to their respective personalties/dynamics.
One thing they do have in common with the cartoon is catching lots of crazy old guys perpetrating crimes that at first appear to be supernatural in nature. In the case of the Blyton Summer Detective Club, nearly all of their adventures took place during the group’s childhood years. Unfortunately, their last case was so messed up that it pretty much ruined them all as adults.
Now, however, they’ve gotten back together to solve it for real this time–even the member who killed himself a few years ago. With the help of Tim, a dog (and VERY GOOD BOY YES HE IS) who is related to Sean (the original Scooby stand-in), the group returns to confront something much older and more evil than a man in a latex mask.
Like I said before, Meddling Kids succeeds by using its setup and characters as much more of a homage than a parody. While there’s still plenty of comedy to be found, much of it is generated organically rather than a constant stream of nostalgic easter eggs. There are plenty of those, too, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well the story and narrative stood on their own.
In other words, you can definitely still enjoy it even if you are not a Scooby Doo fan.
The coming-of-age aspect of the book may seem obvious, but author Edgar Cantero does a brilliant job infusing it not only with heart, but an almost jarring authenticity. As far as the scary stuff goes, I’m more than a little biased toward monsters and/or Lovecraftian elements. That being said, I think most horror readers would agree that Cantero’s work here is objectively great stuff.
I’m normally a sucker for books that do interesting things with their narrative structure. Add some social media posts, fake news stories, or funny furniture instructions and I’m hooked. Unfortunately, Cantero may have finally found my limit for these sort of shenanigans. The text would suddenly shift from regular prose/dialogue into stage directions or a television script format, seemingly without reason.
At first, I thought this would end up being some type of meta device that would lead to a cool (or at least unique) reveal by the end. Maybe that did happen and I was just too dumb to notice/understand it (totally possible), but it just ended up feeling completely random. It also happened enough that it actually began to detract from the story, which is a shame because this is a damn good one.
Aside from that one complaint, however, Meddling Kids is easily one of my favorite horror books I’ve read this year. Even if you aren’t a Scooby Doo fan, it’s still a fun monster and magic-filled mystery filled with great characters.
Also, there’s no stand in for Scrappy Doo, which I think we can all be thankful for.