by Edgar Cantero
Reviewed by SA
This review is very hard to write, just because I’m so excited about what I just read. And by just, I mean I read it weeks ago, and have been putting off reviewing it because I don’t know where to start. It’s got everything you could ever want. It has a detective club that’s grown up with you. It’s got magic. It’s got science. It’s got lore. It’s got heart stopping thrills. It really is the perfect book.
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.
It’s been a decade since a small summer detective club has caught a masked fraud in their local town, pulling a Scooby-doo. But in the years since, nothing has been the same. Depression and anxiety have been following them around, pushing one of the team to take his own life. It’s been, in a word, hell. So when the masked fraud is found to be more of a fraud than initially thought, it’s time to put the team back together and return to the scene of the crime, to finish what they started.
The most exciting part about this book, to me, is that it feels like you already know the characters, and have been a fan of their books for years. The tropes are all there: the intelligent girl, the smart leader, the nerdy boy, and the girl who goes by a boy’s name and is desperate to prove girls are just as good as boys. Which detective series am I talking about? Yeah, It could be any of them.
But the characters have grown. The trope of the wanna-be-boy is explored through one of the characters, and done in such a fun, brilliant and inclusive way I was overjoyed. I love having characters like Andy and I want more of them in the books I read. And the relationships are so perfect. I was so happy with the ending. No spoilers here, of course.
I also loved the way the author broke the fourth wall (is it called the fourth wall in literature?) by playing with the form of the words on paper. For example, he draws attention to narrative elipses and dramatic chapter breaks. It’s hilarious. It ads a depth to the book, remind you the characters are only people on a page, and playing with the novel in a way I’ve never seen before.
I also have to admit this book had me genuinely scared. When they were in the mines, I found my heart literally pounding in my chest. I was terrified! I got so attached to the little club that I was really, really drawn into the story.
And speaking of the story, it’s insanely creative. It has pirate captains and ancient sea monsters (very Lovecraftian), different eras, all details tying together beautifully. It made sense, played with science, and with magic as well. I have to wrap up the review, but there’s more I want to touch on briefly. First off, remember the bully trope? The kid that always steps in the way of the detective clubs? Well, the bully problem is addressed and faced and feels good. Mental health is also something that’s talked about in a healthy, open way.
It’s really the book you loved as a kid, but gown up. I’m hooked! I need more books like this!