Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids was everything and nothing I expected.

From the publisher’s summary:
SUMMER 1977. The Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in Oregon’s Zoinx River Valley) solved their final mystery and unmasked the elusive Sleepy Lake monster—another low-life fortune hunter trying to get his dirty hands on the legendary riches hidden in Deboën Mansion. And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids.

1990. The former detectives have grown up and apart, each haunted by disturbing memories of their final night in the old haunted house. There are too many strange, half-remembered encounters and events that cannot be dismissed or explained away by a guy in a mask. And Andy, the once intrepid tomboy now wanted in two states, is tired of running from her demons. She needs answers. To find them she will need Kerri, the one-time kid genius and budding biologist, 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 in Arkham, Massachusetts. Luckily Nate has not lost contact with Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star who was once their team leader . . . which is remarkable, considering Peter has been dead for years.

The time has come to get the team back together, face their fears, and find out what actually happened all those years ago at Sleepy Lake. It’s their only chance to end the nightmares and, perhaps, save the world.

A nostalgic and subversive trip rife with sly nods to H. P. Lovecraft and pop culture, Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids is a strikingly original and dazzling reminder of the fun and adventure we can discover at the heart of our favorite stories, no matter how old we get.

If you’re of a certain age, you can’t read the synopsis of Meddling Kids and not immediately think of Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby Doo.  And there’s certainly a nod to the Scooby gang in the book.

Somehow, when I read the synopsis of the book originally, I missed the “… and, perhaps, save the world” part of it (and perhaps the cover should have made me rethink the context).  I thought this was going to be a deeper look into the PTSD that resulted from mysteries more Dateline than cartoon.  And the PTSD, the unresolved issues, the feeling that there are things left unfinished is there from the beginning of the book.  But it’s far more fantastical and adventurous than I had expected- much more Buffy than Friday Night Mystery.

That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy Meddling Kids, just that I had to reset my expectations about the book.  It’s fun and campy and a mystery. It’s fantastical and completely unrealistic, which makes for escapism reading. At the same time, the characters are drawn such that you empathize with their insecurities and old wounds that are slow to heal.

That Tim the dog is more than just a mentioned character in the book delighted me.  It’s a twist hard to pull off in a lot of ways.

The book isn’t perfect. It’s a bit of a mind fuck in some ways, and that isn’t for everyone.  I’m still not sure I completely follow the manifestation of the bad guys. And there was one scene that was a gut punch to me.

But, if you like nostalgia,  if your Saturday mornings were filled with cartoons and you’ve actually said “Zoinks” before, and you like reading something that gets you out of your own head, then take a chance on Meddling Kids.