I had originally planned to read this over the course of several days. However, I just couldn't help myself and I read the entire book in one sitting today. Overall, I absolutely loved the book and thought it was quite a fitting ending to this trilogy. It was definitely worth the two years of waiting. Although I will not reveal the culprit in this review, I will be discussing events that happen in the book throughout this review. If that's something that bothers you, I would recommend waiting to read this review.
One of the biggest things I enjoyed about this trilogy is the solid characterizations of Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy. All of them have very three-dimensional personalities, and each characters' emotions are well-written. You can definitely feel the emotional struggle present for each of the characters throughout the book, whether it be Daphne's insecurities about her parents' divorce, Velma's desire to be liked by others, and Shaggy's trust issues about being open with others. I liked how Shaggy's character arc from Mystery Begins was borrowed, where he struggles to make friends. Speaking of theatrical movies, I also thought it was interesting that Velma's family was Latinx in this book, which sort of feels like it was carried over from SCOOB!. (I will admit it's been a long time since I've read the other two, so if there was a brief mention of it in a previous book, I may have forgotten about it.)
I also thought it was an interesting touch that Velma and Daphne displayed brief overtones of jealousy towards one another. In Velma's chapter, she thinks “She twirled a lock of her perfect hair and stared off into the distance.” Later, in Daphne's chapter, she says “She twirled a lock of her perfect hair and stared off into the distance.” This part felt like a good representation of how it often is for people in high school. In high school, people often wish they were something more than they are, whether it be prettier, cooler, smarter...but the reality is, the other person is probably just as insecure about somebody else as you are about them. In high school, it's all kind of a popularity contest where everyone is trying to be the most well-liked (and social media has only made that worse). However, once you get out of high school, you begin to realize that maybe being the prettiest or the coolest, or whatever it may be, doesn't really matter all that much...it matters much more that you are unashamedly yourself. It may be a cheesy sentiment, but I feel like it's true, at least in my opinion. That being said, it was a nice little detail that really made it feel true to what high school is often like.
On the same subject, while I've never really had any complaints about this series in the past, I have to be honest that I didn't really care for Velma pining over Fred. Granted, I'm absolutely not saying that these parts were poorly written or that they detracted from the plot in any way. I completely understand that as someone in my 20s, I'm not exactly the target audience for this young adult book series. I thought the romantic pieces were certainly better done than Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, where the Shaggy/Velma relationship felt toxic and overshadowed the plot. I'm just not into teenage-like romantic drama, even if it fit the genre well in this case. Something about the hopeless pining of "Does this person who I'm madly in love with even notice me?!?" does not appeal to me at all, because it feels unnecessarily dramatic and angsty. Even though I didn't like this piece, I wouldn't say it made me like the book any less, nor would I say Morgan did a bad job with it. I think she did quite a good job of keeping it at a minimum where it wasn't completely consuming the plot. If I'm honest, there's no way I would have enjoyed it because I guess I just find that sort of teenage romantic pining to be a bit cringey, such as Velma's comment "I dashed up the steps, cursing my heart for its insistence on beating double time whenever I saw him!" I know Taylor Swift told us to embrace the cringe, but how much cringe can one take? haha
Even though Scooby didn't talk, I liked how his personality kind of came through too, when he gives Shaggy an excited look when he says "quibble" (mishearing it as "kibble"). It was a nice, subtle way to allow Scooby's personality to still shine through a little bit, and I appreciated it.
The plot of the book felt more high-stakes than the previous books, especially in the sense that a character was murdered, and the culprit tries to kill Fred and Addie by trapping them in a fire. I already thought Morgan did a good job in the other two books with creating suspense and tying in horror elements, but Silas Mohl's ghost felt even creepier than both of them. The description of him having no face was quite creepy. In addition, the scene where the ghost confronts Velma in the woods and only whispers "shhh!" was incredibly vivid and terrifying. The writing perfectly described the imagery in a way that set the stage for a super creepy moment, which can be hard to do when it's not a visual piece of media, so I give Morgan major props for that.
I also want to comment on what a great job Morgan did with including very snappy phrases in her writing. Among my favorites were "Sometimes Daphne was blinded by her Blake privilege - all that new money and fame," as well as "He was capitalism in action!" to describe Shaggy's father. Perhaps my favorite was "Lots of people got phone calls. Not my friends of me, of course, because nobody under the age of forty talks on phones." It's just such a sassy line (and a great social commentary about how phone calls are now seen as being only for old people) that I can't help but love it haha. Speaking of teenagers, do teens actually say "bee tee dub" instead of "by the way" now? I'm genuinely curious now given Fred said it in this book haha.
Speaking of remaining "hip" amongst the youth, sadly, our Official Bougie Count stays at one. I was really hopeful they'd say it again, since it was said in the second book and I figured this book would be the best chance of updating it, but alas, it was not to be. I can only hope that someday someone will say "bougie" again in the franchise so I can update it lol.
I liked that Shaggy got more of a part in this book than he had in the past two. Although we never got any part of the book from his perspective, he felt like much more of a main character, as opposed to the previous two books where his appearances were much lessened. His character arc with struggling with the fallout from his rich dad's company was also very intriguing.
The ending of this was certainly surprising, and I didn't expect the culprit to be who they were. I wasn't really upset by this, but I was surprised that the series kind of ended on a cliffhanger. I would have understood if it were left it open to reader interpretation, but it wasn't. It just ended on Daphne and Velma going to search for the map. I sort of wonder if this means another book was planned to wrap things up, but Scholastic pulled the plug before that could happen. I didn't really mind that it ended without us finding out what happened, but it felt quite abrupt and it surprised me, because I was expecting this book to wrap everything up. I wish we would have gotten to see how the overarching plot ended, given it was so prevalent throughout all three books. Although that part of the ending wasn't left open to reader interpretation, I will say I think it's really cool how the culprit claimed that they did not chase Velma in the woods. Given the culprit confessed to murder, there would be no reason for them not to confess to chasing somebody, so to me, it seems like maybe that was the real ghost of Silas Mohl.
Looking back at the trilogy as a whole, I really enjoyed this series. The characterizations of the gang, especially Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby were really well done. Fred was quite unlikeable with his womanizing and toxic masculinity, but that's exactly what the book were going for. Even though I didn't like the character, I still thought the characterization was good. The villains were all great, and Morgan did an excellent job building suspense and horror all throughout this series. The other thing I really appreciated was how well Morgan pulled in various pieces of continuity from the franchise, and creatively interpreted it to fit the story. For example, Shaggy's cousin Jack was a likely nod to Dapper Jack from Shaggy's Showdown, they carried over Daphne's parents names and one of Shaggy's parents (although it's his mom instead of his dad) being a policeman from A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Shaggy's dad's name is Samuel like in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Daphne's sisters names are carried over from Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, etc. Morgan easily could just made up new names/details for all these people, so the fact that she took the time and connected all of these details from various incarnations of the franchise definitely deserves praise. I'm definitely sad this series has ended, but I think this made an amazing addition to the Scooby franchise.