Book Review: “The Secrets of Life and Death” by Rebecca Alexander


FTC Disclosure: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

“The Secrets of Life and Death” by Rebecca Alexander (2013)

Genre: Historical, Fiction, Fantasy

Page Length: 384 (paperback edition)


In modern-day England, Professor Felix Guichard is called in to identify occult symbols found on the corpse of a young girl. His investigation brings him in contact with a mysterious woman, Jackdaw Hammond, who guards a monumental secret–She’s Dead. Or she would be, were it not for magic which has artificially extended her life. But someone else knows her secret. Someone very old and very powerful, who won’t rest until they’ve taken the magic that keeps her alive….

In Krakow in 1585, Dr John Dee, the Elizabethan Alchemist and Occultist, and his assistant Edward Kelley have been summoned by the King of Poland to save the life of his niece, the infamous Countess Elisabeth Bathory. But they soon realize that the only thing worse than the Countess’ malady, is the magic that might be able to save her…
As Jackdaw and Felix race to uncover the truth about the person hunting her, it becomes clear that the answers they seek can only be found in the ancient diary of John Dee’s assistant, Edward Kelley. Together they must solve a mystery centuries in the making, or die trying. (description from Random House)



Right off the bat I’m going to be truthful and say that this book was not as great as I thought it would be. The beginning of the book seemed dry and boring. I found myself losing initial interest in the novel as the story moved very slowly. I also had trouble connecting myself to the characters of the novel. I struggled to keep reading it and found that around the 150 page mark the story’s pace started to pick up and I found myself  more invested in the story.

I really enjoyed the fact that the”The Secrets of Life and Death” is a story that takes readers into the past and present. Every chapter alternates between adventures of Edward and Dee on their quest to save Elisabeth Bathory in the 1500s to our present day where Jack and Felix try to solve an ancient old mystery. Both storylines eventually intertwine, but it’s exciting to see how the past and present come together in the end to solve the mystery.

I also liked the setting of the story and the various characters presented in the novel. Alexander does a nice job mixing elements of the paranormal within a realistic world, it doesn’t seem over the top and overdone. The mystery and suspense factor keeps the readers pulled into the story, wondering how it will all unfold.

Final Verdict:

My only regret about this book is that the beginning was too slow-paced and that made me lose initial interest in the book. Because of that it took me way longer than normal to finish and it took away some its star quality. Final rating is 3 out of 5 stars. Recommend for fans of mystery, fantasy, and historical fiction.


Leave a Reply