Meddling Kids is a novel by Edgar Cantero. It concerns five kids and a dog, who used to solve crimes when they were children. They would investigate sightings of scary monsters, gather clues and then rig together a trap to capture the monster, who always turned out to be a guy in a rubber mask. Everything was great until their last case, where they ran into some real monsters, some real corpses and a real copy of the Necronomicon. They still captured a guy in a rubber mask, and that guy went to jail, but the kids always knew something more sinister was going on.
Now it is thirteen years later. Andy, the tomboy of the group and grownup badass, decides to get the gang back together. That mans convincing Kerri, the brains of the group, to ignore her nightmares and return to the worse place on Earth. That means breaking Nate, the nerd, out of the Asylum. Peter, the leader of the group, committed suicide but don’t worry, his ghost is hanging around Nate. Finally, they bring Tim, the grandson of the original dog to help them out. And yeah, they are going to need it.
I’ll be honest, early on I felt like I was reading a cross between Scooby-Doo and Stephen King’s It, and I wasn’t sure that was something the world really needed. What saves this book is the writing. Edgar Cantero breaks the rules of structure with flagrant ease. The format changes to a television script during conversations. Perspectives change in ways your writing instructor will despise. There are very meta jokes about grammar. It shouldn’t work but holy crap, does it work. I haven’t been this entertained by someone with language since Lemony Snicket. It is insanely clever.
The story is good too. These characters are real and vivid. Andy, by far the main character, is a young queer woman who is both the heart and the hero of the story. Nate is haunted by Peter and maybe an ancient God. Kerri is scared shitless but she is going to push through. Tim the dog wants to look after these people and get some more attention.
Let me tell you something about Tim. This is one of the best dogs in fiction. We get a partial view of Tim’s POV and it is so damn believable. He doesn’t talk like Scooby-Doo but he has so much personality. I would take a bullet for that dog, and that includes protecting his favorite squeaky toy.
Most important of all, the underlying mystery is really good. I didn’t predict any of it which is so rare these days. The twists are surprising and satisfying.