Barcelona-based novelist Cantero (The Supernatural Enhancements, 2014) returns with a lightly spun yarn steeped in decades-old American pop media.
The members of the Blyton Summer Detective Club, who last adjourned in 1977 after sleuthing around the improbably named Zoinx River Valley in search of supernatural beings, have got the band back together a decade and a half later—well, with all but one of their number, who has inconveniently died. But are the dead ever dead? No, of course not. Of the original crew, Andy has turned into a butch, spiky young woman seemingly bucking for a dragon tattoo to call her own. Nate, “pale, blue-eyed, more worn but still fragile,” let the ghosts get to him and has been in and out of mental institutions. Kerri has visions, too, but mostly ones brought on after one too many hits off the bottle. And there’s a telepathic dog, too, that just may be living proof of metempsychosis. (“Please do not feel deceived: he has been your dog all this time. I just ride along.”) If all this smacks of Scooby-Doo, then that’s by design, though it’s not the only mass-media allusion: glimmers of The Haunting, Dark Shadows, the Witch Mountain franchise, Halloween, and Tales from the Crypt dance above the swamp. There’s even a satisfying explanation for “why bad guys charge at Jackie Chan in a single row,” albeit the bad guys in question are your garden-variety hell beasts, “drooling, hissing, claw-waving creatures.” Undergods, Thtaggoalites, uber-demons, six-limbed monsters: whatever the other side can throw at our gumshoes they deal with handily if cartoonishly. Cantero is a lively, capable writer, but this isn’t much of a stretch for him; he seems determined to occupy the middlebrow midrange, turning in a piece better fitting an episode of The Librarians than, say, a spooky exercise by Guillermo del Toro.
Meddling? Middling. A pleasing enough confection, but no great advance for either pop culture or the author’s development.