Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Genre: Horror
Secondary genre: Mystery/comedy
Format read: audio
Content warnings: mental health including mentions of suicide, disturbing imagery
Positive rep: POC (Hispanic and Native American), LGBTQIA, mental health*
Rating: planchet-5

This book has been on my radar since it came out, but while it made an initial splash, I feel like it was largely unnoticed by readers. That’s a shame, because it was my first 5 star book of 2019.

13 years ago, Andy, Nate, Karri, and Paul were middle-school aged kids solving mysteries during summer vacation with Kari’s trusty pup. Aftering breaking up sheep smuggling rings, finding lost items, and uncovering sabotage, the quartet are faced with their toughest case yet: a so-called haunting at a mysterious abandoned mansion on Sleepy Lake.

While their child-selves managed to uncover the suspect–a man in a mask searching for hidden gold, who would have gotten away with it, too, if not for those meddling kids–the case has far reaching repercussions, and haunts them into adulthood.

Peter, the defacto leader and eldest of the group, goes on to become an actor, but takes his own life just as his career is taking off.

Kerri, the brain, has washed out of grad school and is tending bar. Handy, since she’s also an alcoholic trying to deal with terrifying nightmares.

Nate has been in and out of mental institutions since high school in an attempt to get control of his hallucinations–like seeing Peter’s ghost.

And Andy, wanted in at least two states, with a dishonorable discharge from the air force and a few assaults under her belt, is trying and failing to get a handle on the episodes of blinding rage she’s been dealing with.

Sick of running from her demons, Andy decides it’s time to get the gang back together and face the monsters head on. It’s time to find out if the man in the mask was really the one pulling the strings, or–as they all once suspected–there’s something supernatural afoot in Sleepy Lake.

This book balances grit with goofy, horror with humor. At first, I wasn’t sure it was my kind of book, but I kept reading for the one liners. By chapter two or three, however, I was hooked.

While Andy seems to be the main focus of the book–most of the narration is centered around her–it’s Nate that really makes the story for me. A nerd to the core, he’s the one with the mythical knowledge that allows them to move forward with their investigation. I’m a sucker for characters that make me laugh, and Nate definitely does that.

A cross between Scooby Doo and H.P Lovecraft, it calls back to the ensemble mystery novels of the early-mid 1900s, with some fantastical horror thrown in and some early ’90s nostalgia to boot.

*The mental health content in this book involves depression and hallucinations and may be triggering for some readers