Beyond the Grave — “39 Clues” Series


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Book Review

Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the fourth book in the “39 Clues” series.

Plot Summary

In the first book in “The 39 Clues” series (The Maze of Bones), Dan and Amy Cahill’s wealthy grandmother, Grace, dies and leaves a challenge to her large extended family: Whoever finds the 39 clues she’s left behind will gain wealth and prestige beyond their wildest dreams. Orphaned Amy (age 14) and her brother, Dan, (age 11) are determined to outplay their vicious, devious family members.

In book four, Irina Spasky (former KGB agent and 39 clues competitor) chases Dan and Amy through the marketplace in Cairo, Egypt. A young archaeologist named Theo rescues them and guides them through several museums and tombs where they’re seeking clues. Using a frequent traveler card they’ve stolen from rival Uncle Alistair, the kids and their young au pair (nanny), Nellie, check into a fancy hotel suite. Inside the room, they find a secret passage to the Ekat stronghold. (The Ekats are one of the four Cahill family branches, the group to which Alistair and his uncle, Bae, belong.) Bae traps the kids in the Ekat lair, and they begin to wonder why their supposedly loving grandmother involved them in such a dangerous quest without providing more help. After Nellie rescues Dan and Amy, Grace’s best friend, Hilary, who lives in Cairo, tracks down the children. She renews their faith in their grandmother by producing a clue Grace left specifically for them, as well as the artifact (a statue of the goddess Sakhet) they’ve been searching for since arriving in Egypt. A map hidden inside the Sakhet statue leads them to Queen Nefertari’s tomb. Theo and Hilary try to steal the Sakhet figurine when Irina offers them money for it, but they are foiled by Nellie. When the kids realize their next clue is buried beneath the Nile, Alistair takes them in his homemade submarine. The Ekat stronghold is ransacked, and Dan and Amy learn it was the work of the most mysterious Cahill family branch, the Madrigals.

Christian Beliefs

One of Grace’s clues is a Christmas card with a manger scene on it. Dan finds a Bible in the hotel drawer. The kids eventually refer to it, looking up Matthew 2:11 when they realize that Grace is leading them to a clue involving myrrh.

Other Belief Systems

Dan and Amy search for a statue of Sakhet, most powerful of all Egyptian goddesses, who is known for her divine retribution and vengeance. She nearly destroyed the whole human race once on orders from the god Ra, according to a legend. In Nefertari’s tomb is a painting of Osiris, god of the underworld. His wife, Isis, is pictured leading Nefertari into the underworld. Natives believe that people who disturb the tombs of the dead will themselves die quickly. Nellie says that Hilary’s greed has led to bad Karma. Dan says Nellie worships her iPod. He also says luck is like Halloween candy: For a while you get to eat good things, then you’re scraping the bottom and break your teeth on old, hard pieces.

Authority Roles

Nellie, the young punk-rocker au pair, serves as Dan and Amy’s primary adult figure. She often allows them to hunt for clues by themselves and treats them as equals rather than children in need of guidance and discipline. Hilary tries to steal an artifact from Dan and Amy; she feels slighted because Grace didn’t leave her money in her will. Theo betrays the kids’ trust by helping Hilary (his grandmother). Alistair, Dan and Amy all question the sincerity of Grace’s concern and love for her grandchildren; they wonder if, by sending them on this hunt for clues, she has encouraged them to be criminals and/or placed them in excessive danger. Alistair bugs Dan and Amy’s room, partially out of concern for their well-being. Though he is a competitor, he feels affection for the orphaned children. He helps them look for underwater clues and get to a safe hotel until they can travel to their next destination.

Profanity & Violence

Dan uses the word fart. Discussing the mummification process, he explains how brains were extracted by pulling at them until they liquefied and oozed out the nose.

Sexual Content


Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments

Lying: The kids, Nellie and other characters do a fair amount of lying. When Irina is chasing them, Amy lies and tells Theo that Irina is just someone on their tour. Theo lies about writing a book so he can get himself and the kids into a tomb that has limited public access. Alistair notes that none of the Cahills know how to trust, and with good reason, since they’ve all betrayed each other so many times.

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