Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to be in the center of an international murder mystery? Have you ever watched a Bourne movie or read a James Bond book and thought, “Yeah, I could do that”? Unfortunately, for Nora, she neither asked for nor wanted the responsibility that was thrust upon her. She just wanted to translate some letters in Latin, get a good recommendation to use in her college applications, and spend some time with her best friend. But the Book, and the seven hundred year mystery surrounding it, ruined all of that.
It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up. When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love. When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.
But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead. His girlfriend Adriane, Nora’s best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora’s sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.
Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.
This book is narrated by Nora and it starts at the logical place — the beginning. She starts with the introduction to the Book (it must always be capitalized because of the weight of its importance) and how she came to translate letters concerning the Book and the life of Elizabeth, the daughter of the Book’s alleged creator. It was innocent enough, but it all went terribly wrong the night that everything changed.
The circumstances I won’t reveal because it will spoil it for you, but the ensuing chase, no, sprint across the globe to Prague and how Nora becomes involved in hunting down pieces to a puzzle people have been trying to put together for hundreds of years made me think of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Granted, Nora doesn’t go to as many countries or places and the hints are a little easier to put together than those in The Da Vinci Code because it’s not so entrenched in religion and the Bible, but there were enough religious elements to make that connection. Actually, thinking back, I would liken the religious aspect more to the film Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s there, but you’re not really aware of it because the mystery part is so good and it’s not likely to cause controversy.
There were a couple hitches to the book which brought me out of the story. The first being when Nora was questioned by the police the first time. She appeared to be alone in an interrogation room with two police officers (detectives?), but she’s a minor. I’m fairly certain laws are the same in Massachusetts as they are in Texas and one of those laws says minors cannot be questioned by the police without a parent, guardian or lawyer present. If it’s different there, then I apologize, but it was enough to make me rant a little in my notes. Also, the fact that Nora and her classmate were able to leave the country while in the middle of a police investigation was another white flag. I understand they weren’t suspects… yet… but I’m sure they were people of interest in the case, which means they wouldn’t have been allowed to leave the country, let alone the state. I’m just going to accept their parents cleared it with the police beforehand, but it still kind of bothered me.
I liked how the book was split into sections when big changes happened. I also liked the characters. I wasn’t too sure of Adriane for most of the book, and for good reason, but I liked Nora as the narrator and Chris, whenever he appeared in the ‘before that night’ section. They were close friends, even though they were members of the opposite sex. I wasn’t ever really sure of Max, either, and another suspicious person who entered Nora’s life after ‘that night’ made me equally wary. Basically, I didn’t trust anyone but Nora. She was a bit too trusting after what happened, but she learned quickly, bless her heart. I felt bad that she had to lose her innocence and grow up so fast, but she toughed it out and grew the stronger for it.
I loved the insights into the past through the letters Nora translated. I also really liked the writing as we raced from one place to the next, hunting down the clues left behind. This book is a standalone (Woo-Hoo!), which means you get answers and, hallelujah, an ending. I did feel like the ending was a bit rushed, and would have liked to have more of an ‘after’ to everything, but overall, it was a good book.
If you like thrillers or the books that take place in other countries, enriched with pieces from the past, or even a good mystery, I would recommend this book for you. It’s one of those that will stay with you for a while and make you question how you would handle the situation Nora was placed in. This is the first book of Robin Wasserman’s I’ve read, but I’m excited to read her past works and I look forward to seeing what else she writes.
The Book of Blood and Shadow is available TODAY in bookstores, libraries and online in ebook form, so go read it!