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The Carter children are a precocious pair of twins, but you knew that already, right? Afterall, like me, you’ve been reading about their mystery-solving antics for over thirty years! In case it’s been a hot minute, I’ll give you the quick whatty-what about our favorite duo of crime-fighting twins. As some of you may remember, Randy is a smart kid. Way too smart for his own good sometimes and his twin sister Charlie, well… she’s the brawn of the duo. She’s also a touch psychic. The pair, along with their police chief father, solve the everyday mundane to the dark and seedy underbelly, and typically weird, mysteries of Serenity Bay while mom did the role of, well, mom. Things started to turn real dark after the emergence of a serial killer, the family’s greatest and most demanding case.

We all know how that turned out, don’t we?

For three decades and counting we’ve grown up with the Carter twins despite themselves never growing up; perpetual “Lost Boys” if you are so inclined. We loved seeing them solve their cases and Serenity Bay, in a lot of ways, became OUR home away from home. As readers, we become attached to characters as though they are real people whom we know, cherish, and love. Their homes are equally as enchanting as they become magical places where we can escape our problems; at least for a moment we can disappear. In these last thirty years we have learned about the kids, their family, and the other interesting inhabitants of Serenity Bay like Stan the cotton candy maker who survived the Titanic and Jan, the curmudgeon librarian with fifty cats whose penchant for curry caused her to touch the other side. So, when they pick up and leave this idyllic setting of Serenity Bay, which has become Everytown, USA, we find ourselves wondering, “Why?” and thus, also…

Welcome to Effingmouth…

I suppose writing the same sort of stories in the same sort of place can become daunting and even writers need a change of scenery now and again but take a trip to a theme parks! When “The Author” revealed the change of scenery for Randy and Charlie the fan outrage was palpable. The revolt on Twitter was off the charts. Everyone questioned the mental faculties of “The Author”. The hashtags “#BURNTHEAUTHOR” and “#SERENITYBAYSTRONG” were in the top five most used hashtags for six months straight! It was crazy and even made the major news outlets which, in turn, caused a swelling of interest and that snowballed into book banning meetings at schools across the country!

Confused? Finding yourself wondering, “Huh? SHOULD I remember this?” The answer is “no”. If you googled “Research Randy”, then good. Job well done on my part.

I’m old and my head is oftentimes filled with sawdust. This translates into complete ignorance of what the hell “META” is and isn’t. This may be the first time that my archaic gray matter remapped itself for a few hours to “get it”. Research Randy & The Mystery of Grandma’s Half-Eaten Pie of Despair (phew… THAT is a lot of title to type) is a book wrapped inside of another book or, more to the point, a collection of books, written by “The Author”. He’s been penning these mysteries for kids for over three decades. As we read, he makes little jabs at our sense of reality by referencing things that we SHOULD know, but don’t, since this vast volume of books simply does not exist.

Mind blown. Poof. Get a mop.

Tom Lucas, the perpetrator of this mind melt, designed Research Randy to be a chapter book where each of the chapters is essentially its own mystery for Randy and Charlie to solve, much like the mysteries in the OTHER books that we should have already read. “The Author” breaks the fourth wall and talks to us personally about his trials and tribulations with the treatment of the characters, his dismay at being compelled to write this, and his agonizing torture of essentially having no control of what he’s doing. Even though these mysteries take place in Effingmouth they have far-reaching consequences stretching all the way to Serenity Bay and beyond. This alone makes Research Randy quite unique and worth a serious look.

Research Randy is not only written in a very clever way but it’s also downright ingenious. It’s an amalgamation of everything we loved as kids. If you enjoyed reading Goosebumps or Encyclopedia Brown, and shivered at the tales of H.P. Lovecraft, or loved choosing your own adventure (yeah, there’s a nod to that, too!) then Research Randy & The Mystery of Grandma’s Half-Eaten Pie of Despair will give you the feels and leave you longing to go back to that simpler time in your life. If I’m being honest, and that’s my job, in some ways Research Randy surpasses the aforementioned works. It’s just that damn good.

While this book is written with a middle grade audience of 13 and up in mind, Tom Lucas has expertly woven a story of subtle nuance suitable for adults. We can giggle and laugh at the small Easter eggs planted throughout along with the tongue and cheekiness of it all. But it also has everything a kid wants in something that’s horror adjacent but never takes things too far to leave them truly frightened.

Horror books for this age range, that are appropriate, are excruciatingly hard to find. While Goosebumps remains fantastic in many ways, they are written in a language of the 80s and 90s while Research Randy & The Mystery of Grandma’s Half-Eaten Pie of Despair is much more sophisticated to coincide with the standards of today but even this is played with as Lucas uses the flavor of the 80s and 90s early on and allows it to grow and simmer to sophistication as you read. He doesn’t miss a beat entertaining all of us and I truly hope to see more of this kind of YA horror because many other books tend to play down to younger readers while this puts them on an equal footing intellectually.

Research Randy & The Mystery of Grandma’s Half-Eaten Pie of Despair is not a long read at a scant 172 pages but is one hell of read and an even better ride. It’s scheduled for release on Halloween of this year by Beating Windward Press. You can pre-order from your favorite bookseller but hey, here’s the link for the Amazon pre-sale: Research Randy.

On a side note…

Unless you’ve been living under a proverbial rock (or real one, I don’t judge) then you have undoubtedly seen an all-out attack on our educational system and bearing the brunt of these attacks are our books. Especially books for kids as local governments are giving the power over what EVERY child can read to one or two angry Sunday sports widows or basement dwelling shrews who see Satan in burnt toast while dawning their self-knitted sweaters and gleefully applying a set-it-and-forget-it 80s perm concoction on top of the last one to create a nest for many a bird or straw for kindling. Take heed fellow book lovers! Read this one before it’s too late!

It’s just… commonsensical!

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