The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander (3 out of 5)

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Historical fiction and mystery are two of my favorite genres to read. Together? Usually, it calls out an unbeatable combination that keeps me riveted to the last page. I was not real thrilled with this book, unfortunately.

In modern times, Professor Felix Guichard is called in on the case of a young woman found dead. Her naked body bears occult symbols all over. He meets up with and tries to decipher the second mystery, of a young, tough woman named Jackdaw Hammond. Jackdaw has her share of secrets; namely, she’s a dead woman. Or she was… resurrected by the powerful sources of Magic that keep her alive. But for how long? For the only person who knows Jackdaw’s true story, who has the power to ruin her life as well as put an end to it, wants to reclaim those secrets of Magic and reveal the truth.  Will Jackdaw be alive long enough to help Felix solve the crime? Will she even care if her own existence is being threatened? And for what?

The alternate story begins in Krakow, Poland in the late 1800’s. Dr and Master John Dee and his assistant, Edward Kelley, are summoned by the King of Poland to save the life of the critically ill Countess Elisabeth Balthory. No matter what possible cures and medical means they try to revive her and her livelihood, the two gentleman quickly realize that there is one solution- Magic could save her and bring her back. However, this isn’t your cookie cutter Magic, kids. It’s black Magic, and there are consequences attached. Dire, dark, insurmountable Magic. We dart back and forth between 1865 and present day. As Felix and Jackdaw try to uncover whom is hunting her down, Edward Kelley’s olden diary may hold the keys to uncovering the answers to whom, why, and perhaps, how to escape with her life intact. It may also answer the question of what happened to the Countess.

The action doesn’t go at a breakneck pace, which you are led to think it may, given that Jackdaw’s life is on the line until she and Felix can crack the code of Edward Kelley’s ancient writings. The book sort of ambles on, telling the backstory and lending all sorts of questions that creep up in the unraveling of her story, as well as the dead Countess’ history. It’s slow going, at least it was for me, and that was somewhat unbelievable to me. This should have been a story that unfurled quickly, because time is of the essence. That was my first problem with it.

My second issue was that I really liked the character of Felix; and no matter how I tried, I just couldn’t wrap my arms around Jackdaw. Something about her made me scratch my head. There always seemed to be an ulterior motive with her, when all she should have been concerned about was getting on the stick regarding the diary and thus, some answers would find their way to her. Instead, she seems very impatient throughout much of the book, and I wasn’t very sympathetic to her plight. Those who are overly pushy and know-it-all in matters beyond their intellectual means should step back and let the real professionals- in this case, Felix- do their jobs and get to the bottom of things.

Once the story of the Countess is revealed, some things snap into place, and others just stay there. Motionless does not make for a great read. I give this points for seamlessly tying up the ends that connect the two stories, but I can’t give it more than that, because the main character drove me up a tree and I never relinquished the feeling of wanting to smack Jackdaw in the face with a skillet. Still, once the loose ends are tied up, it’s all very nicely wrapped up with a big bow for the reader. It just didn’t capture my attention throughout and therefore, lost a couple of ratings points with me.

*I received a copy of this book in return for a honest review, from Blogging For Books.*

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~ by generationgbooks on November 19, 2014.

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