Thursday, April 04, 2013

Review: The Book of Lost Fragrances by M. J. Rose

It is the anniversary of Jac L'Etoile's mother's death and she puts flowers in the vase in the mausoleum, her mother's favorites. She sees her mother's ghost but refuses to talk to her for fear her old psychotic episodes will drag her back down into the abyss where the line between hallucination and reality will claim her forever.

Jac is surprised by her brother Robbie showing up. As much as Jac wanted Robbie there, she was certain he would not show. Robbie has brought flowers, but his main reason for coming was to get Jac to agree not to sell any of the L'Etoile house scents to cover the debts their father, in his growing dementia, ran up and ruin the company. He would rather have Jac's help deciphering the individual notes of a scent that is believed to be a memory tool, a tool that with one whiff can take a person back through previous incarnations, a scent that will save L'Etoile Parfumerie and their family's long legacy. Jac doesn't want to be involved. She doesn't believe in reincarnation and she fears Robbie is chasing a myth that will ensure the company's downfall.

Jac refuses Robbie, but soon finds herself in a race with time when Robbie disappears and she must find him and the reason he killed a man in their family workshop.

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M. J. Rose is part of her Reincarnation series and is my second foray into the world of history, denial, mystery, and madness. One thing I always find with Rose's work is complex characters with depth, warts and all. The story lines are always fascinating and contain a great deal of information, but not so much that the story takes a second place. Rose seamlessly weaves history, myth, and magic into each book and The Book of Lost Fragrances is no exception.

Whether you believe in reincarnation or not, Rose masterfully evokes both sides of the question and adds the spice and mystery of the past with a look into the fabled past with a deft hand. This time Cleopatra, perfume making, and the connections inherent with a family legacy is steeped in reality without sacrificing believability or the suspension of time. I was drawn into the story and into the intricacies of perfume making and the vast catacombs beneath Paris while being intrigued with the story of a young Chinese calligrapher venturing forth into the world for the first time. The Book of Lost Fragrances is at its worst dark and forbidding and at its best simply mesmerizing.

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