The Book of Lost Fragrances
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". . . absolutely stunning."
Books can supply stellar plots, memorable characters and amazing locations, but this particular title supplies all of these and far more. In fact, the author delves into a mystery that spreads throughout time, and turns a suspenseful novel into sheer beauty.
In 1799, in Alexandria, Giles L’Etoile (the greatest perfumer in Paris) stands beside Napoleon Bonaparte as he uncovers a tomb. Although there are statues, artwork and gold, the one true treasure is found when the sarcophagus is opened and a dual mummy rests inside. A man and a woman are joined together, each holding a piece of pottery that’s filled with a fragrance that could not possibly be real. This is the tomb of Cleopatra’s personal perfumer and the woman he loved.
Fast forward through a slew of L’Etoile generations and we find ourselves in New York City were a young woman named Jac is visiting the mausoleum of her mother on the anniversary of her death. Jac is a complete cynic whose job in life is to ‘debunk’ myths and legends. This is the woman who finds the reality among the ‘tall tales’ and shares them on her cable TV show – Mythfinders. She is also a woman who hears voices and sees the past.
Her father has Alzheimer’s and has placed the mighty House of L’Etoile into bankruptcy. He, as well as Jac’s brother Robbie, have been intent on finding Cleopatra’s lost book of fragrance formulas to re-create that one scent that would allow people to regress to their past lives, and prove once-and-for-all that reincarnation is possible. Even though Robbie is a ‘believer,’ Jac has the ‘nose’ – the gift of identifying each and every element that was in a fragrance, but she has no desire to prove to the world that past lives exist, she just wants to save the family name.
When Robbie brings pieces of pottery and an old scroll that talks about an ancient, mystical scent, he begs Jac to get on board and re-create this item. Soon Jac is caught in an adventure of monumental proportions. The love of her life is back; a doctor who helped her get rid of her visions as a child is now hoping she will set them free; stories of past lovers come forth; a murder, a disappearance – all of these combine to lead Jac into a world she doesn’t believe in to save her family, their company, and herself.
This book is absolutely stunning. The author deftly links these present-day perfumers with the ancient world, as well as a Tibetan lama who the Chinese government wants to stop. From the Mafia to spies to hiding in the catacombs beneath the Paris streets – readers are taken on the most exciting, ethereal ride of their entire lives! And this novel will change the way people think about ‘coincidence.’ When all is said and done and we ring in 2013, M.J. Rose could very possibly be the author who wrote ‘The Best Book of 2012!”
Reviewer: Amy E. Lignor