________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 3 . . . . September 18, 2015


Loyalist to a Fault. (The Dead Kid Detective Agency).

Evan Monday.
Toronto, ON: ECW Press, 2015.
301 pp., trade pbk., epub & pdf, $14.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-77041-074-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77090-418-7 (epub), ISBN 978-1-77090-417-0 (pdf).

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



October was alone, as she wouldn't be able to revive her dead friends until the end of the month, what with the lunar cycle and the weird mystical undead rules governing the dead kids and all that. October had her dead friends' ghostly guidelines mostly sorted out.

The dead kids arise from their graves only during the full moon and return upon the appearance of the next full moon. (They stuck around for about a month. This rule is clearly the most important in the current situation.)

The dead kids can become tangible and intangible at will, passing through the world of the living or interacting physically with it as they so choose.

The dead kids are invisible to nearly all living people, but certain people -- those who have experienced untimely, mysterious deaths in their close family or friends circle -- are sometimes able to see them.

The dead kids can harm each other and themselves with no pain or lasting consequences. Severed arms will grow back.

While they can physically interact with living people, they cannot knowingly harm them. Punches don't land.

The dead kids are to remain ghostly corpses until their unfinished business - namely finding justice for their terrible childhood deaths - is complete. (This was the theory at least. October had solved Morna's case in December and she still seemed to be kicking around, so this rule might be a little hand-wavvy.)

October Schwartz, aka Zombie Tramp (so-called by her best enemy at high school), 13-year-old daughter of that same high school's science teacher, is getting good at this raising-the-dead thing. As is apparent from the excerpt above, she has their rules pretty well established and is determined that she'll eventually solve the age-old mysteries of the deaths of all of the five dead kids she summons with her incantation. The present book deals with the murder of Cyril Cooper, son of a United Empire Loyalist, who drowned under mysterious circumstances approximately two hundred years ago. Since Ms Fenstermacher, her history teacher, has assigned a project on "an historical figure -- anyone who lived before 1960"[!] but also one who is not well-known, October figures that, by doing her project on Cyril, she should be able to kill two birds with one stone: ace her assignment and solve the mystery. In the process of researching, she gets caught up in a present-day mystery as well, one that involves a ghostly pirate who seems determined to steal all important documentation regarding Sticksville's history, including things from the Cooper family. The connection between the two mysteries, and their solutions, is not completely clear, even at the end, but there seems to be a mix of witchcraft, secret societies, and one very sharp, unghost-like cutlass coming much closer to October's nose than she was comfortable with.

      The whole book is very tongue-in-cheek, with alternate chapters told by October and an ironic narrator who is identified by his sans-serif typescript, just in case the reader should be confused. It is, in turn, touching, ridiculous, exciting, silly, and insightful, poking fun at everything. The dead kids can't actually hurt the living, but they can play tricks on them, wreaking havoc at the Valentine's Day dance, for example, by switching the DJ's records and dust jackets and shaking the pop cans for the fun of seeing them explode on opening. Exactly the sort of practical jokes to appeal to the intended audience, in fact.

      As I said, the witchcrafty elements are not fully explained, nor is the mysterious voice that calls October on the old telephone that is not plugged in or connected to an exchange, but as this is only the second of the five dead kids' deaths to be investigated, readers can be reasonably sure that all will eventually be made clear. To be continued in our -- or Monday's -- next, as they say!


Mary Thomas summers in Bracebridge, ON, winters in Oxford, UK, and springs and falls in Winnipeg, MB, where she still works from time to time in elementary schools. She also objects to be classed as an "historical figure" merely by being born before 1960!

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - September 18, 2015.

CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive