Dead Low Tide
This mystery novel by Eddie Jones is the third in " The Caden Chronicles" series published by Zonderkidz, a trademark of Zondervan.
Dead Low Tide is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
For the past nine months, 15-year-old Nick Caden has written for an alternative webzine called Cool Ghoul Gazette. The online magazine covers strange paranormal events and occult-like activities. This job is a perfect fit for Nick, who solves crimes as a hobby. While his family is visiting Savannah, Ga., where Dad has a job interview, Nick decides to research a girl named Heidi May Laveau, who died years ago. A fisherman recently reported seeing her corpse washed ashore, but no one else has seen the body.
Life has been rocky for the Caden family. Dad's unemployment has taken its toll on his marriage, and Nick fears his parents are planning to separate. While Mom and Dad go to a dinnertime job interview, Nick and his sister, Wendy, sneak out to an abandoned boathouse to work on Nick's story. Wendy sits in a canoe and is suddenly abducted by what appears to be the zombie of Heidi May Laveau. Nick rushes to contact his parents and the police, and the search for Wendy begins.
While Officer McDonald and Nick's parents search, Nick secretly follows a tip. A girl named Kat, who he saw sitting with friends at a bonfire upriver that evening, says she can help Nick find Wendy. Kat tells him about the Gullah people, descendants of slaves who know a lot about zombies and voodoo. She says there's a Gullah woman named Annie he needs to visit on a nearby island. Then Nick starts getting text messages from Wendy's kidnapper, saying he wants his life back, and Nick is the only one who can help him.
Nick doesn't know anyone in town, and he wonders who could know his family is there. He talks to Ms. Bryant, the kind, high-powered real estate agent who interviewed Dad for the job. Nick also speaks briefly to her haughty aide, Matt. Nick questions Officer McDonald and his assistant, Dirk. Although he enjoys Kat's company, he wonders how she knows so much about his sister's case. As his parents continue to argue, Nick follows leads. He finds evidence at a condo owned by McDonald indicating that someone followed Nick's family from Kansas to Georgia. McDonald catches Nick at the condo and claims he's renting it out to someone he hasn't actually met.
Kat stays in the boat, but drops off Nick on the island near to Annie. When Nick asks questions, Annie talks more about God than about voodoo. Nick sees the dead Heidi May Laveau once more and follows her into the woods. There, he discovers Matt, the real estate assistant, has been playing the part of Heidi May. Matt has been pretending to be the dead girl because he is an aspiring actor, and the kidnapper had convinced him to take this as an acting gig. Matt falls into a pit, and it's implied that he dies of a broken neck.
Kat remains near the boat until the kidnapper finds her and takes her to his hiding place, where he is also keeping Wendy. Nick finds Kat and Wendy with the real kidnapper. He's a man named Gabrovski, whom Nick helped put away in a previous case. The man tries to drown Nick in the dead low tide while burying Kat and Wendy alive. Nick holds his breath long enough to fake his own death. Then Officer McDonald, whom Nick had tipped off, arrives with Nick's parents and surprises Gabrovski. Gabrovski gets away, forcing Nick and his family to enter witness protection.
Ms. Bryant, the real estate agent, shares a letter with Nick that turns out to be a clue. She tells him she kept it because sometimes she gets a gentle nudging to do something and later learns there was a divine reason behind it. Kat tells Nick she teaches a Bible study for recovering zombies. Dirk, the police officer, also leads a Bible study for Christian surfers. He tells Nick he will pray for Wendy.
Kat explains the term "Bible Belt" to Nick. She says it used to be that everyone, Christian or not, attended church because that's where business was done. She says her Bible study is different. Kat gives a speech on her dislike of hypocrites and people who make the name of Christ a bad word. She says when a person calls out God's name, He is there. Nick tells Kat his great aunt Vivian goes to church because she believes Christians will rise from the dead someday. That's why she's not afraid of dying. He says he's been reading a little bit of Vivian's Bible each day. He's not sure he agrees with all the rules, but he likes some of the stories.
Annie quotes verses to Nick about not consulting with mediums or spiritists. She shows him a number of Bible stories in which the dead are raised to life. As Nick watches Gabrovski burying Kat and Wendy, he cries out to God for help. Dirk gives Nick a lengthy speech about God creating the earth and then coming to live in it and dying for it. His point is that, without God's Spirit, we're all really zombies. We're alive, but we're dead because of the Curse.
Other Belief Systems
Nick warns readers that this story contains voodoo, curses, black magic, disembodied spirits, the walking dead and a disturbing scene involving a goat. Wendy disappears on the eve of Savannah's annual zombie festival. Kat tells Nick about boker priests, which are like witch doctors but they control zombies. She talks about a church missions trip to Haiti, where she learned about Haitian voodoo practices. She says they sacrifice children, put curses on people, drink blood and worship the Devil. She says kids might think Halloween is just a fun time to dress up, but what they're really doing is dabbling in black magic and worshiping the king of darkness. Kat tells other stories about chicken blood and hexes. She tells Nick to go see Annie, the Gullah woman, for information on voodoo, black magic, curses, potions and raising the dead from the grave.
A fisherman who pulls a body out of the water says it had a bad case of crabs because the body was literally covered with crabs. Nick urges people to stop reading this book immediately if they're the type who get queasy at the mention of bodies oozing blood or corpses with eyes gouged out and bones poking through skin. Nick sees Heidi May's corpse floating face down with rotting skin flaking off. Dark hair covers the part of her scalp not caved in by the jet ski that hit and killed her, and jagged ends of broken bone hang out. Nick quotes from a book called The Zen of Zombies. It suggests getting rid of zombies by severing the head, hacking the body into small parts and then burning and burying the remains. Gabrovski attempts to bury Wendy and Kat alive. He tries to drown Nick and throws a cooked goat carcass in the water to draw alligators to Nick's body.
Nick and Kat kiss (or almost kiss) with a Moon Pie between them.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- What are some of the dangerous, disobedient or illegal choices Nick makes?
How do they put his family members and friends in danger?
Why does Nick investigate voodoo, black magic and curses?
- Why do you agree or disagree with his conclusions on each?
What does the Bible say about these things?
What does Dirk mean when he says people without God's Spirit are zombies?
What did you like or dislike about the somewhat gory images and descriptions in the story?
- Are they necessary? Explain.
Illegal behavior/disobedience: Nick borrows several boats without permission. A group of teens drinks alcohol around a bonfire. Nick and his sister sneak out to investigate an abandoned boathouse, even though their parents have ordered them to stay at the condo. Nick says he has a bad poker face, which is why he almost never lies to his parents. Regardless, he makes several attempts to lie or conceal information from them. Nick recalls a time his dad found out he'd been cheating in his language arts class.
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Readability Age Range
9 to 12
Zonderkidz, a trademark of Zondervan