Thirteen years after the Blyton Summer Detective Club solved their greatest case by revealing who the The Sleepy Lake Monster was at the Deboën Mansion, Andy (Andrea) Rodriguez decides to get the gang back together. Andy is running away from her past and trying to forge a future with Kerri, who works in a bar although a scientist. Together they helped form the BSDC alongside Peter, who despite being incredibly successful, took his own life and Nate who still, bizarrely, talks to Peter and often admits himself to the local asylum. Completing the group is Tim, a dog that is the offspring of the original clubs dog, Sean. The BSDC are all now troubled young adults, they saw something else that day back in 1977 and it’s now time to return to Blyton Hills to face their demons.
The premise for the book had me genuinely excited, Scooby Doo was (and probably still is) one of my favourite cartoons. The characterisation is different enough to avoid a lawsuit, but this novel is essentially grown up Scooby Doo. The core storyline is great fun with all the tropes you would expect from the Hanna Barbera classic but seen from more mature eyes all tied off with a Cthulu bow. Yes, that’s right, Cthulu! There’s some weird stuff going on in and around the Deboën Mansion. No wonder the BSDC have scars that won’t heal.
This book could have been a solid 5/5 had it not been for several choices by the author that I found quite surprising and at times, irritating. I went into this book expecting an interesting juxtaposition between the zany kids story of ’77 with it’s rubber masked villains, to the current day tale of troubled young adults facing very real dangers. And that’s exactly what we had for the first third of the book, that is until *minor spoiler* the gang break Nate out of the asylum. I’m not sure Scooby Doo in its prime would come up with such a comedic way of breaking someone out. I’ve gone from developing a relationship with these ‘real’ characters for them to morph into cartoon caricatures. If I had known this was Canteros intention I would have approached the book from a very different angle. From that moment on, it was difficult to take the characters often angst ridden woes seriously, for me, the story would have worked so much better had it kept its comedic mask on all the time. Don’t get me wrong. the characters are great, but they work better for me as the characters from a cartoon. I don’t need to know that Fred is desperately in love with Daphne, who in turn is in love with Velma. Or that Shaggy came from a broken home and that Scooby only went along as they were all feeding his crack habit. Obviously they aren’t spoilers but you get my point.
The prose is all over the place in Meddling Kids, it switches from second to third person and even moves to a script format (with stage directions). I found it quite off-putting, taking me out of the book at times, additionally a lot of the exposition seemed to have one sentence too many, which made for a sticky reading experience. I know that Canteros first books were not written in English, it did make me wonder if Meddling Kids had also been written in Spanish and then translated poorly. And if that doesn’t make you scratch your head, Cantero also throws made up words into the equation! These certainly took me out of the book, I had to reread, even google some of them to decide if I misunderstood something.
Meddling Kids made for a frustrating reading experience. There is a great story here, with fantastic set pieces and plenty of action. I’d ordinarily recommend you give it a go, but with the issues I’ve highlighted, although not book ruining, do make the book a challenge. Which is a real shame as this could have easily been Scooby Doos greatest adventure!