When the director of a university research team dies suddenly, his protégé, Tom Carrott, inherits his problems. While Tom struggles to save the research group from bankruptcy, a mysterious Egyptian chest arrives at his house. The chest’s contents, which could lead Tom to unlocking the secret of immortality, force Tom into the adventure of a lifetime, complete with government agents, billionaire crime lords, and a romance with a beautiful international spy.
THE SECRET OF IMMORTALITY’s main character, Tom, is described as a “card-carrying skeptic” whose life is built around supporting his ambitious girlfriend, a fellow researcher named Eloise. Tom’s characterization, though, quickly falls by the wayside. Once Eloise is out of the picture, Tom turns out to be a rather bland character, despite (or maybe because of) his stereotypical eidetic memory and his unquestionable ability to attract the opposite sex.
While its main character isn’t particularly appealing, THE SECRET OF IMMORTALITY’s plot is more interesting. The story opens with a bang; the death of Tom’s mentor happens in the very first paragraph. Author C.J. McKivvik has a solid understanding of how to carry that tension into the second act. However, McKivvik’s pacing can also feel manufactured or disingenuous. There are multiple times during the story when a character unrealistically sets aside an important clue in favor of doing something mundane, presumably as a shallow tactic to create tension by forcing the reader to wait for the next big reveal which can be irritating.
THE SECRET OF IMMORTALITY’s biggest failing, though, is its massive length. Several characters could have been combined or cut, the dialogue could have been tightened up dramatically, and many of the minor subplots felt superfluous (including the author’s attempts at humor; it’s hard to take academics, hit men, and CIA agents seriously when they are balancing donuts on their heads and performing belly flopping tricks on the hotel beds).
McKivvik’s quirky writing style will keep the reader flipping pages. However, it’s hard to ignore how bloated THE SECRET OF IMMORTALITY is. Overall, the beginning of the novel is strong, but the middle drags and the ending is disappointingly predictable. McKivvik includes so many characters in his novel that he loses sight of how to properly develop his main cast. This novel would have benefited from some aggressive structural editing to help create a shorter, stronger story.
The concept behind THE SECRET OF IMMORTALITY is solid, but the novel is bogged down by too many characters and unnecessary scenes. This novel would flourish if its content was cut down, its pacing was tightened, and its core cast was more authentically developed.
~Stephani Hren for IndieReader