***I want to disclose that I’ve known Teddy a very long time and he’s my co-worker and friend, but this has very little influence on my review of this novel.***
The Totally Gnarly, Way Bogus Murder of Muffy McGregor by Teddy Durgin is a mystery novel chock full of 1980s movies, music, and nostalgia. Sam Eckert is a 15-year-old boy living in Laurel, Md., and he’s one of those boys who is on the outside looking into the popular crowds. Since entering high school, he’s experienced bullying and lived an ordinary life, even as his friend and crush Barbara makes her way to the in-crowd via Muffy McGregor. Summer 1986 is Sam’s time to make something happen, and he figures if he takes a job at 16 Plus, he’ll have a chance to interact with Barbara and maybe get her to go out with him.
Chip Roundtree and Buddy Bradford are his best friends — the ones that trade movie quotes and other pop culture moments. When a explosion rocks the Laurel Center Mall, Sam is thrust into the center of a murder mystery. Who killed Muffy McGregor, the most popular girl in high school? Was it her jock boyfriend, Brent, or was it a jealous friend, like Barbara, or maybe it was someone no one knew? Sam decides to team up with Private Investigator Rabinowitz to solve the murder after a newspaper article about her death hurtles him head first into popularity.
Durgin certainly has a firm grip on the 1980s, and his movie references are spot on, and make this mystery funny in several places. He’s adhered to the culture of the time and references stores that are no longer in business. Readers will see how much life has changed for teenagers, but also how much it has stayed the same. His characters are quirky and fun, but they also must deal with real-life issues like bullying and how to interact with the most popular kids in school without looking like total buffoons.
Readers will have to suspend disbelief that a private investigator would allow a teenage boy to help him solve a murder, but in Sam’s case, even if Rabinowitz had not taken him along, he would have likely done it on his own. It also seems as though Sam’s friend, Buddy, disappears almost entirely from the narrative. Despite these quibbles, the novel is a quick read for the poolside this summer. The Totally Gnarly, Way Bogus Murder of Muffy McGregor by Teddy Durgin is a satisfying trip into the 1980s, and the mystery is well crafted. I do hope that there are future installments.
RATING: Quatrain (really this is 3.5 for me, but I round up)
About the Author:
Teddy Durgin is a devoted film lover and a trained journalist who has reported on the entertainment industry since 1997. He runs Teddy’s Takes, a movie review subscription service, which is equally as amusing as this book and is a mere $20 for Baltimore-Washington area subscribers who attend free preview screenings he sponsors and $12 for those elsewhere. He’s also a writer for several newspapers and journals, as well as a senior editor at SmithBucklin.