Disclaimer: I received this ARC from Titan Books in exchange for an honest review.
Meddling Kids is a mystery/horror that follows a group of grown-up teen detectives as they revisit their last ever case. Each character is haunted by their final case in some way, and they can’t help but feel they left something unfinished when they unmasked the man they thought to be the culprit back in 1977. Thirteen years later, Andy’s getting the gang back together to find out what really happened in Sleepy Lake.
This is a really fun, quirky read that made for a nice change from my usual reading habit of fantasy and science fiction. It plays well with a lot of familiar tropes like haunted houses and monsters, chases and trapdoors, and meddling kids clubbing together to stop the bad guy, and adds in new elements, giving new depth to the characters, and adding real horror to the nostalgic Scooby Doo gang vibes.
I was a big fan of the characters, who each had a unique voice , and their own set of problems they confronted over the course of the story. Andy, who as a teenager was always described as a “tomboy” is a capable, kickass, no-nonsense kind of woman, who brings a lot of life to the story in the role of the gang’s lead. Nate, a horror nerd familiar with the Necronomicon, meanwhile, has spent most of the last thirteen years in mental health institutions, and still talks to the gang’s deceased fourth member, Peter. The final member of their gang is Kerri, once a kid genius destined for greatness, now a biology grad working as a bartender and struggling with a drinking problem. These troubled characters added a new spin on the plucky teen detectives trope, and I loved learning about how each one had changed since their days of solving mysteries.
Another thing I enjoyed about this book, but found it a little strange to get used to, was the writing style. Edgar Cantero intersperses the third person prose with sections written as though part of a script. This is really unique, and isn’t something I’ve come across before. At first, I was unsure about the technique, but actually, writing out sections of speech like a script helped speed the plot along, and the stage directions were an original way of adding tension and describing a scene.
My favourite part of the book by far was the introduction, as I really enjoyed getting to know the characters, seeing them revisit their childhood, and beginning to piece together elements of the mystery. For me, the ending could have been wrapped up a little quicker, and maybe some of the exploring could have been condensed into a shorter number of pages. In general though, the pacing was good, and the plot was interesting, with some cool horror elements coming in towards the end.
Overall, this was a fun and easygoing read, with some great horror, mystery, and nostalgic elements, that put an interesting spin on familiar and nostalgic tropes.