“What about the house? The pentacle? The empty coffins? The symbols written in blood?!”
Double Day Books | 2017
Filed Under: Jinkies and Zoinks!
Here’s a fun fact about me: one of my go-to stress-relieving past times is getting as baked as a potato and watching Scooby-Doo.
I have always had an affinity for mystery-solving kids because I myself wanted to be a mystery-solving kid. But as it turned out, I had really boring neighbours growing up so I had to live vicariously through shows like Ghostwriter, The Secret World of Alex Mack and the Scooby Gang.
I suppose it says something about my love for Scooby-Doo that I still watch it in my 30s. It’s just that nowadays I’ve turned it into more of an adult activity.
So, kick me in the crotch and spit on my neck if I wasn’t through-the-roof excited to find that someone had taken my Scooby Gang and turned it into an adult caper! Not only that, it’s mixed with a little Lovecraft flare?!
THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED IN YOUR LIFE, my heart screamed.
Turns out, my heart jumped the gun and it is still firmly in the “cartoons and weed” category.
That’s not to say that this wasn’t a fun read. It totally was. It just didn’t live up to the hype or the nostalgia it so clearly was trying to honour.
A group of kids get together every summer in the vacation hamlet of Blyton Hills and form a little detective club, putting a stop to local crime and mischief using tricks like the “reverse werewolf trap,” as kids do. Their last case was in 1977 and all four kids walk away from the unmasking of the Sleepy Lake Monster a little bit changed and a lot a bit traumatized.
Fast forward thirteen years – it’s time to get the band back together again because everyone is fucked up and depressed and one of them has lost their life to suicide because of the Sleepy Lake Monster case.
*sirens* This is no longer a kid’s game! Alert!
This is some dark shit. In order to get their lives back on track, the remaining members of The Blyton Summer Detective Club (including a dog named Tim) need to find out what really happened back in the summer of ’69!
Fuck off, Bryan Adams, that’s not even the right year!
…back in the summer of ’77 at the Deboen Mansion, in the Zoinx River Valley. That’s right, Zoinx River. And let me tell you, if you hate that cheesy reference the rest of the book is going to make your eye twitch. Probably just one eye. But could be both.
It is filled with cartoon caper throwbacks and nostalgia points that you can notice from a mile away because they are so blatant. Like escaping recklessly through a mine shaft in a mining cart, ghosts and monsters of various assortments (including lake monsters), arcane books and supernatural villains and spooky old houses.
I don’t really know where I stand on this yet. I have a feeling this will be the kind of book that takes me months to make a final emotional decision on. On one hand, it’s an action-packed, supernatural thrill-romp. But on the other hand, it took the essence of Scooby-Doo and ruined it with unlikeable characters. Which is kind of the heart of Scooby-Doo? And why it has lasted as long as it has. So, why would you fuck with that?
Kerri was annoying as fuck. Nate was exceptionally boring considering he was a psych patient who was having conversations with the departed Detective Club member, Peter. Andy was aggressive in every way imaginable. The only good character was the dog, and then he was ruined on the very. last. page.
Listen, I’m not going to pretend to be woke enough to call out clear issues in regards to representation, but I’ll just say what I felt and if I’m wrong the SJW army can string me up and scream at me about tolerance and how I’m not liberal enough yet.
Cantero seemed to get representation right on one hand by creating a diverse cast, but then he fucked it up (to me) with comments about being trans that seemed to be coming from a place of the author’s own personal opinion, and this basically amounted to “kids who think they’re trans will grow out of it later” and that felt icky to me.
Then he also took the only non-white, non-straight character and put her in situations, or had her make comments/take actions, that seemed to stem from a place of lesbian male fantasy and less from actual, human relationships. And that felt icky too.
But that’s just my two cents.
I guess people also didn’t like that this book was stylistically a mash-up of novel and screenplay formats? Personally, that didn’t bother me. I’m not so rigid in my reading that different styles will throw me off for very long. I can get used to everything like a chill sloth, so that doesn’t impact my rating, but just so you know.
With all of that in mind, I’m wavering on my rating for this.
It wasn’t what I wanted it to be, but maybe it never could have been. Ahh, the existential crisis of reading nostalgia-driven fiction! I do feel like the characters were less than ideal creations considering the history they were lifted from. I wish I could have liked any of them enough to root for them, but I kind of just wanted them to shut the fuck up.
But it was still a shitload of action, some fun and supernatural weird shit that wasn’t horror enough to scare anyone, but maintained that Saturday morning cartoon vibe. Or that Saturday night stoner vibe, whichever stage you’re at in life.
1990. The teen detectives once known as the Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in the Zoinx River Valley in Oregon) are all grown up and haven’t seen each other since their fateful, final case in 1977. Andy, the tomboy, is twenty-five and on the run, wanted in at least two states. Kerri, one-time kid genius and budding biologist, is bartending in New York, working on a serious drinking problem. At least she’s got Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the team. Nate, the horror nerd, has spent the last thirteen years in and out of mental health institutions, and currently resides in an asylum in Arhkam, Massachusetts. The only friend he still sees is Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star. The problem is, Peter’s been dead for years.
The time has come to uncover the source of their nightmares and return to where it all began in 1977. This time, it better not be a man in a mask. The real monsters are waiting.