Fiction: The Secrets of Life and Death – Rebecca Alexander

Author: Rebecca Alexander
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Where to buy: Amazon | BN | Strand

The woman reached over and patted Sadie’s hand. Her fingers were dry, like old twigs, and cooler than Sadie’s, who was powerless even to flinch away. “You didn’t have to kill the dog.” She choked on her tears, and wiped her sleeve across her face. “Or hurt my friends.” “Your friends were—overprotective.” She rolled her tongue over the words. “I had to stop the police. And the dog? What do you say? Collateral damage. I needed to get your attention before time ran out for all those people.”

“What do you want with me? Are you going to take some of my blood?” She spat the words out, folding her arms. “My dear child, Sárika.” The woman leaned back in the car, and smiled at Sadie. “I’m going to take all of it.”

Before you roll your eyes and think, “Not another book about vampires,” I am going to put your fears to rest. This is not a book about vampires, but one about sorcery, history, power and even angels. I’m talking about the debut novel of Rebecca Alexander, The Secrets of Life and Death. Her name is one you should definitely remember.

Ms. Alexander’s novel begins with an excerpt from the journal of Edward Kelley in the year 1585, who along with his master, noted alchemist Dr. John Dee, is about to embark on a journey at the invitation of King Istvan Báthory. The King requires the help of the two men to save his ailing niece, the Countess Elizabeth Báthory. Fast forward to the year 2013, where Professor Felix Guichard has been summoned to a crime scene involving the death of a young girl. The Professor, who studies the occult, is asked about the symbols drawn on the dead girl’s body, symbols that draw the attention of another. Jackdaw Hammond (possibly the coolest name ever), knows all too well what the symbols mean and their significance. She has the same symbols on her body, which are keeping her “alive.” I use quotations because Jack was supposed to be dead. She’s what’s called a “borrowed timer,” which I won’t explain too much here because I don’t want to give it away. Professor Guichard and Jack are eventually brought together when a series of events occur, uncovering a mystery that spans 400 years.

The Secrets of Life and Death kept my interest, as each chapter went back and forth in time. Using historical figures in books can be a tricky subject, but Ms. Alexander did a great job of making the events believable. Kelley’s descriptions of his and Dr. Dee’s harrowing time trying to save the Countess had me lost. The descriptions were very detailed, full of magic, fear and danger. The chapters dealing with Jack and Professor were just as engrossing, with an equal amount of magic, fear and danger. What are the symbols and what do they mean? Ms. Alexander takes her time explaining their meaning, as well as how Kelley and Dr. Dee are part of the mystery. The buildup is deliberate and well-executed without being cheesy or campy. I would not be surprised if this book is optioned into a film, as the events that take place would be visually stunning. I highly recommend The Secrets of Life and Death and urge readers to purchase a copy.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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