What’s New, Scooby Cthulhu? MEDDLING KIDS: A NOVEL Review
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Have you ever stopped to think what life would be like for Scooby Doo and the gang once they grew up and entered the real world? Neither had I, until I read Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero. This novel is Cantero’s spin on mystery series like The Hardy Boys and Scooby Doo. It is also a worthy tribute to H.P. Lovecraft and the eldritch horror genre. Cantero is a Spanish novelist and newspaper cartoonist. Meddling Kids is his second novel written in English. Although it is the only one of his works I’ve read, I get the sense from reading the synopsis of his other books, that he enjoys combining genres to create a blended horror story. This is certainly true for Meddling Kids.
The story in this novel is much more than a group of kids getting chased by a guy in a monster mask. As children Peter, Nate, Andy, Kerri and her dog Dave, spent their summers together in the Oregon town of Blyton Hills. They were all part of a detective club that solved local mysteries. The book opens on them as adults, each still traumatized by the strange events that occurred during their final case. Seeking to find peace, they return to Blyton Hills for the first time in decades and literally confront the horrors from their past.
I really enjoyed the modern twist on the Mysteries, Inc. team. With the exception of a dog being a member of the team, the main characters are not just carbon copies of the Scooby gang. Yes, one of them is a jock and one of the women is book smart, but all of them have a lot more depth then the cartoon characters from whom Cantero drew inspiration. The reader really comes to know the characters for who they’ve become as adults. Cantero gives us glimpses into their childhood friendship and sprinkles hints as to what transpired during their final case. These hints keep the reader guessing as to what is real and what was imagined by the minds of frightened children. The hints also help build up the elements of eldritch horror throughout the first half of the story by keeping the existence of the threat the characters face veiled in shadow and doubt.
Despite being inspired by childhood favorite characters, this novel was a challenging read. Cantero is constantly mixing narrative styles and literary devices, sometimes within the same paragraph. There is a mix of prose, narration, and liberal yet unorganized use of both third person limited and third person omniscient perspectives. Some dialogue is even formatted like a movie script. Cantero also overuses personification. Everything from the local cafe to the gang’s car gives its opinion on the characters. I think Cantero’s intention was to provide atmosphere and levity to the story, but it tended to take my focus away from the actual storyline instead. Most grievously, Cantero rarely uses personification or third person limited on the dog. Even given the inspiration behind the novel, I didn’t expect the dog to talk. Yet with the liberal use of personification, in a story inspired by Scooby Doo, you’d think Cantero would use this literary technique on the dog more often. In addition, there were a few times during intense scenes where I wished Cantero would spend a little less time creating atmosphere and more time detailing the setting in which these scenes were occurring. It’s hard to imagine a fight scene in your head when you don’t know how the area the characters are fighting in is set up…yet you know the wallpaper’s opinion of the ongoing battle.
Even with the random, unpredictable literary styles, Cantero delivers some solid storytelling. There is a subtle love story that I found very compelling. Cantero avoids making the budding romance between two of the characters a subplot, instead weaving it into the overall narrative. The romantic element becomes another layer of character development and not just a plot point. There is also an unexpected amount of action sequences. These scenes are very exciting and help differentiate Meddling Kids from most other similar mystery novels.
By putting together concepts from Scooby Doo and Lovecraft, Cantero creates a fun and diverse mystery in Meddling Kids. There is a great juxtaposition between the element of the unknown common to Lovecraft’s stories, the unreliability of a child’s memories of a traumatic experience, and the inherent skepticism of ‘real monster’ vs. ‘man in a mask’ theme of most episodes of Scooby Doo. These elements all come together to form a compelling mystery with elements of action and romance. Cantero’s writing style makes for a challenging read, but those who make it to the end of the novel will close the book feeling a sense of satisfaction.
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Cantero creates a fun and diverse mystery in Meddling Kids.