Page Count 338
Publication date April 2018/ Publisher Titan Books
Price £1.99 Purchased From: Amazon Kindle (12/01/19)
A nostalgic celebration of horror, friendship and many-tentacled, interdimensional demon spawn.
In 1977 the Blyton Summer Detective Club unmasked the elusive Sleepy Lake monster—another low-life fortune hunter who would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids.
By 1990 the former detectives are haunted by strange, half-remembered events that cannot be explained by a guy in a mask. Andy, the once-intrepid tomboy now wanted in two states, wants answers. To find them she will need Kerri, the former kid genius now drinking her ghosts away in New York with Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the club. They will also have to get Nate, the horror nerd currently residing in an asylum. Luckily Nate has not lost contact with Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star who was once their leader… which is remarkable, considering Peter has been dead for years.
The time has come to get the team back together and find out what actually happened all those years ago. It’s their only chance to end the nightmares and, perhaps, save the world.
Meddling Kids had the perfect premise for my taste. I’d seen it described as a mash up of IT, Stranger Things & Scooby-doo, doesn’t that sound fun?
Well it is fun, but I wouldn’t call this writing by any stretch of the imagination. The only thing that kept me reading -and being honest I was skim reading large portions of this book after the halfway point- was the plot.
This story is an absolute tornado. We’ve got a teen-aged detective club, science experiments, necromancy, myth and folklore, witchcraft, ghosts, monsters, the apocalypse and even pirates! It’s all a bit dizzying, you really cannot embark on this novel expecting anything less than supreme silliness.
I completely agree with the likening to Scooby Doo and Stranger Things but make no mistake; the quality is a million miles away from even the cheesiest of 90s cartoon Scooby mysteries. Meddling Kids is entirely unpredictable throughout, something which definitely kept me turning the pages, but this isn’t due to a cleverly thought out story arc. The book just continuously launches new themes in your face in a never ending tangle of sub plots with threadbare connections and laughable coincidences.
I really enjoyed the addition of Tim the Weimaraner dog, although he’s clearly nothing but a gimmick and I can only conjure up a maximum of three occasions where he adds anything to story progression, there was something comforting about the cute, obedient sidekick.
I have to admit, whilst I did kind of enjoy Meddling Kids I have decided unequivocally that I will not be reading anything else by Edgar Cantero. I could go on for pages about the glaring issues with Meddling Kids but I will try and stick to a few spoiler-free points for your sanity and mine.
I’ll admit my vocabulary may not be the broadest it can be, but after using the kindle dictionary function to define a couple words within a few pages I decided to highlight each one I came across. The general writing isn’t particularly ‘flowery’ as I like to call it, which makes Cantero’s random use of unnecessarily obscure words jump out and slap the reader. You can almost see him sitting at a word document and hitting the thesaurus button to elevate his own vocabulary. A few examples include:
Sinusoidal, Borborygmic, Verdigris, Verisimilitude and Bivouacked. If, like me you aren’t sure of these- look them up! You’ll find they all have much simpler and more common meanings.
Whilst maintaining this little habit of mine throughout the book I came across several words that Cantero had invented entirely. As with the words above you can generally make out their meaning via context, but they served to further my disappointment of the authors writing:
Lemminging (to describe books ‘jumping’ from shelves)
Attilaing (some sort of likening to Attila the Hun during battle)
Tragichuckled (a sad laugh)
and Anecdotic– which actually had no context and no definition so I can’t really answer that one.
How Did That Happen?
Often throughout Meddling Kids I was pulled out of the crazy hi jinks to stumble across a glaring plot-hole or a badly written sentence.
During one scene our crew- two girls, a guy and a dog- are crossing a high unsafe bridge, typical fantasy fiction ground. Person A crosses the bridge but when Person B crosses and encounters a problem midway suddenly Person C and Dog are already safely on the other side and ready to aid? What! How did they get there?? I re-read this paragraph three times to make sure I hadn’t missed something. Needless to say the tension was lost by then.
Another blinder, Person A is tied and gagged to a large post, the rest of the crew enter an action packed battle and suddenly there’s Person A in the midst. Not only free of his previous bindings without explanation, but armed to the hilt with weaponry? HUH!?
They fear nothing, I fear nothing
Speaking of battles, even after accepting this novel as purposefully ludicrous the fight scenes are nothing but a barrage of verbs and seemingly super-human strength on behalf of 3 twenty-somethings and a dog. They are written in hulking paragraphs, some as long as an entire page, and paint an image of a bloodbath with our young heroes never seemingly in real fear of any danger.
‘lungs wolfing down oxygen, heart pumping at drill speed, muscles overdosing, brain ordering a dash to the left, stab to the right, kick to the stomach, elbow at 4 o’clock, comeback through the jugular, triple gut combo ahead bonus 10K for style, slice the neck, bash the head, nail the hand, twist inside, eviscerate decapitate mutilate amputate cut it hack it stab it kill it die motherfucker die die die die die..’
Too often throughout Meddling Kids I stopped to scoff and quote the material to my partner, either it didn’t make any sense or it was so badly written that my eyes had physically stumbled on the words. Some favourite examples of this:
An eye glistened audibly – Really? How does that sound?
(Describing hair) it had already reached the border between her back and the end of her back back then – Come on now, word better!
Glaring at the guy with glasses-less, hateful eyes– maybe I’m being pedantic but ‘glasses-less’ really bothered me.
A blank-meaning time-lapse paragraph fireflew by– I’m sorry, what now?
Tim leaned even closer, English microbiologist eyes fixed on..- TIM IS A DOG THOUGH!?
On top of this we have book-long descriptions of Kerri’s hair as a living thing, it laughs, cries, looks frightened and presents all other manner of ridiculous emotions separate to the character herself. Cantero also appears to reject the word ‘asked’. There are hundreds of questions posed in this book, but none of them are ever asked, they are POLLED. Nate polls Joey. Andy polled Kerri and Cap.
And and and and and..
AND now for the final nail in the Cantero coffin. AND. Never have I seen such terrible overuse of the word and. I’ll give you a little glimpse;
‘when they reached a landing, AND they kept running up a new, shorter set of stairs AND burst through a hatch AND into a room AND then slammed the hatch closed behind them AND Andy pulled down two bookcases to block it.
If you want a good chuckle and an easy read then go ahead and tackle Meddling Kids, but reader beware- you’ll have to navigate a minefield of plot holes, liberally scattered crumbs of a thesaurus and some extremely half-assed grammar. The more I write for this review the more I realise I really do NOT recommend it. Don’t get sucked into the story, its isn’t worth scratching your eyes over the writing.
Go watch an episode of Scooby-Doo instead.