I read this short novel around 2014, in the UK, in English. The cover was dark pink or red, and the title was something that smelled like a ripoff of the Da Vinci Code.

One of the main (viewpoint) characters was an assistant of John Dee, I think named Edward or Edmund. He was married, but loved Dee's wife; at some point in the story, a succubus appeared to him in the form of Dee's wife. He and Dee were travelling together in mainland Europe, I think visiting a Polish king?

The main antagonist was a Hungarian noblewoman who became a vampire. I think her name was Elizabeth or Erszebet (the Hungarian form of Elizabeth).

If I remember rightly, the story followed two parallel timelines, one in the sixteenth century with Dee and his assistant, another in the modern day. I can't remember any of the modern characters (I think there was a small team of protagonists), but the ancient vampire woman was a common antagonist in both storylines.

Not many details, but hopefully distinctive enough to identify the story? I searched a bit online, trying search terms involving Dee and Elizabeth/Erszebet, but mostly found historical pages about Dee and his queen Elizabeth I. It's not The Alchemist's Door at least.

  • Given the vast number of books tgat apparently cast both Dee and his assistant Edward Kelly as vampires or time travellers battling vampires…, is it possible for you to list some of the titles you have already ruled out?
    – Spagirl
    Sep 4 at 9:24
  • 1
    It's almost certain that the woman is the infamous Elizabeth Báthory, regardless of what novel it is in.
    – Mary
    Sep 4 at 19:48

The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander seems a probable match. From the Penguin Randomhouse website:


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.

The US cover is a tasteful grey, but Penguin’s UK website shows a red and black jacket more in the CJ Sansom style. I’ve quoted from the US site as it has a more expansive ’about the book’ section.

Assorted cover images for book

  • 1
    Yep, I'm pretty sure that's it. The names Felix Guichard and Jackdaw Hammond are familiar, even if the title and cover aren't quite in the style I thought they were.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Sep 4 at 19:57
  • Ah, the third of those images is the cover I saw, I think. Thanks!
    – Rand al'Thor
    Nov 29 at 11:12

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