The Secrets of Life and Death

Rebecca Alexander. Broadway, $15 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-8041-4068-3
The 16th-century storyline in this paranormal thriller debut is gripping, featuring both Countess Elisabeth Báthory, said to have slaughtered 80 girls and bathed in their blood to stay young, and John Dee, necromancer and advisor to Queen Elizabeth. Unfortunately, the sections set in present day England are less enticing. In 1585, Dee and his assistant, Edward Kelley, undertake a perilous journey to the Báthory castle at Niepolomice, Poland, where they are asked to save the life of the countess. Alexander does a convincing job of depicting the dangers along the way, including an attack on the convoy by wolves, and that feeling of lurking violence is sustained as Dee attempts to fulfill his mission. The first contemporary sections are also suspenseful, as Prof. Felix Guichard, an expert on "esoteric belief systems," is called in by the police when the corpse of a teenager bearing "possible evidence of sorcery"—Enochian symbols that allegedly were given to Dee by angels—turns up in a train in Exeter, England. Guichard's quest for the truth becomes less interesting as it proceeds, and his character is underdeveloped. Readers will be left with high hopes for Alexander's next outing. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 06/22/2015
Release date: 10/01/2014
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 448 pages - 978-1-4481-7609-0
Open Ebook - 232 pages - 978-0-8041-4069-0
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