Halloween Read: “Meddling Kids” by Edgar Cantero

Meddling kids

A crack team of animated teen detectives, The Blyton Summer Detective Club, solved their last case thirteen years ago.  Though they caught the culprit (a guy in a costume with an evil scheme), all four of the kids never forgot that terrifying night they spent in a haunted house.

Now young adults, the members of the detective club are not doing so well: Kerri is a bartender with a drinking problem, Andy (deemed too aggressive for the military) has escaped from prison and is on the run, Nate is in an asylum, and Peter has killed himself.  Andy is the one who decides the team has to get back together and revisit the scene of their last case, and put the true mystery to rest at all costs.  That way, she figures, they’ll all be able to move on with their lives.

And it turns out there’s a lot more than just a guy in a mask waiting for them at the haunted mansion.

It’s inventive, original, and funny, with truly creepy scenes, lots of monsters, a suspenseful climax, tons of action, and a great mystery.  It’s like Lovecraft blended with Scooby Doo!

If you like horror that doesn’t skimp on the comedy, give this a read this Halloween!

 

 

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Marie’s Reading: “Mr. Mercedes” by Stephen King

MrmercedesSo I’m only just slightly behind the times.  At least I got to Mr. Mercedes eventually, just in time for the second in the planned trilogy to arrive on shelves (Finders Keepers hit the street last week).

Bill Hodges is a retired detective considering suicide when the novel opens.  He spends his days watching bad TV, eating too much, and playing with the idea of putting a gun in his mouth.  One day, Hodges receives a letter that snaps him back–it’s a missive from a mass killer styled “Mr. Mercedes,” who killed eight people when he drove a stolen Mercedes into a crowd.

The Mr. Mercedes case had belonged to Hodges before he retired, and he never solved it.  Now he’s determined to do so, before Mr. Mercedes can kill again–as Hodges is certain that he will.

Mr. Mercedes is a cinematic and suspenseful crime novel.  It’s also an engaging examination of an aging man who thought he was finished being given a renewed sense of purpose.  And it’s also a creepy, morbidly fascinating examination of the background and creation of a killer.

This novel has a lot of cross-genre appeal.  Horror fans, particularly those who enjoy human horror, will find a lot to like in Brady’s storyline, as well as the well-placed gore. Crime fans will probably respond to the well-constructed cat-and-mouse game as Hodges hunts for Mr. Mercedes.  Suspense and thriller fans might appreciate the slow, encompassing build that comes together with ever-increasing pace and urgency.

The one genre group I’m not positive about is straight-up mystery fans, oddly enough.  One note I kept finding online was that King himself calls this a “hard-boiled” detective novel.  I’m not entirely sure that it is.

You feel the looming threat because you know what Brady is up to, but this world isn’t bleak.  There aren’t mean streets.  As ever with Stephen King, the streets are regular (if depressed) streets, which makes the horrible things that happen so much scarier and so much more imaginable. Hodges is a nice man, a smart guy who clearly was a crackerjack detective, yearning for a sense of purpose and people to be there for.  All through the story he gives off an avuncular sort of vibe.  Perhaps it was my reading, but I never got “gritty” or “world-weary” or “streetwise” from this guy.  This story is a battle between good and evil (another King hallmark), and never once do you doubt what side Hodges is on.

Your mileage may vary, but I think you might be a little disappointed if you go into this book hoping for a traditional hard-boiled story.  You also know the entire time whodunit, and the suspense comes not from a puzzle but from seeing how the criminal will be foiled.  Stephen King also is never one to leave his universe entirely at rest and at peace, so you won’t find any traditional justice being served here.

All that said, this is a compelling read with twisted yet appealing characters, a creepy tone, and enough crazy that even citizens of Derry might arch an eyebrow.  If you like King’s work and haven’t tried this one yet, or if you want some crime that’s dark and twisty but very readable, definitely pick it up.

–Marie

Marie’s Reading: “In the Woods” by Tana French

In the WoodsActually, I just read that one first.  I couldn’t stop there.   As soon as I was done I needed more Dublin Murder Squad.  So now I’m reading The Likeness.  And then I’ll move on down the line until I’ve read them all!

I’m just sorry I hadn’t read these when I wrote that post about Crime Fiction for the Maine Crime Writers.  In The Woods would most definitely have been on my suggestion list.  The first in the series, it’s about a team of detectives trying to solve the murder of a young girl, even as one of the detectives tries to simultaneously solve a mystery from his own past.

Tana French’s police procedurals are compelling, atmospheric, and stylistically complex.  They’re moody pieces of crime fiction, rather than mysteries–some mysteries never get solved in her books, loose ends are left dangling.  I’d also classify the Dublin Murder Squad books as psychological suspense.  French delivers that delicious blend of mystery and suspense and atmosphere that makes crime fiction the fabulous genre that it is.

I also love French’s unflinching and honest depiction of Ireland and the Irish, of the society and its tensions.  Her Ireland is not sentimental.  It’s an Ireland full of a sense of history (recent and not), and a sense of national identity.  She gives a lot of evocative attention to the beauty of the landscape and the weather, but also pays attention to the undercurrents of society, government, and community.

If you enjoy character-driven fiction with an absorbing sense of place, believable and unique character voices, and well-constructed mysteries, do give the Dublin Murder Squad a try.  You also might like French’s work if you enjoy Kate Atkinson, S.J. Bolton, or Gillian Flynn.  While every Dublin Murder Squad novel features a different narrator and a new situation, the world is steadily built and characters grow as the books go on.  So do start with In The Woods and then go on from there.

When I’m done, though.  Don’t sneak the later ones out from under me. I’m warning you. I’m the librarian.  I’ll know.

–Marie

Marie’s Reading: “Until You’re Mine” by Samantha Hayes

until you're mineI received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Random House.

(….is that all i have to say?  i’ve never had an ARC before.  i feel really special but also really nervous.  i think all i have to do is review it, but i’m not positive.  uh…here, i’ll link back to Random House Readers Circle.  is that okay?  also, what do i do with the book now?  am i allowed to put it in the book sale?  it says “not for sale” on it.  does a used book sale count?  or  is it supposed to self-destruct?  will random house stop sending me presents and take away my RH inner circle decoder pin if i do this wrong?)

As far as thrillers go, Until You’re Mine by Samantha Hayes is very well-constructed.  I appreciated how there’s a great blend of suspense, mystery, and even a dash of horror.  The story centers on three characters: Claudia, a pregnant social worker desperate to have a child after many miscarriages; Zoe, her nanny, who may not be what she seems; and Lorraine, a detective investigating the recent murders of pregnant women in the area.  Not only have the women been murdered, but it appears that the killer attempted to take their babies.

To say too much more about the plot would be to give too much away.  Part of the fun of this kind of novel is coming up on the twists and turns yourself, and making of the clues what you will.  But I will say that the multiple storylines are very well-done.  I liked how Zoe and Claudia are both in the first person, but Lorraine is in third.  I felt it was a nice touch that gave a bit of distance with the character that needed it, and then the closeness with the characters that required it.  Plus, the first-person works quite well with characters who might or might not be unhinged.

Hayes really has written a novel that will appeal to fans of several genres.  Mystery fans and police procedural fans will like the fact that, if you pay attention, it’s totally possible to solve this crime with what you’re given right along with the detectives.  Horror fans might enjoy the mounting tension and the murders, as well as the psychological aspect of being closed in and isolated with someone who might want to kill you.  Thriller readers, this one should be right up your alley!  It’s twisty and turny and compelling, with a rather clever reveal at the end.

Gillian Flynn fans, this one is for you.  Right down to the creepy last scene and even creepier last line.  And if you enjoy this book, Hayes intends for it to be the first in a series starring the detectives, Lorraine and her husband.  So stay tuned!

–Marie