Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: The Book of Lost Fragrances

Summary: A Secret Worth Dying For …

Jac L’Etoile has always been haunted by visions of the past, her earliest memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up with as the heir to a storied French perfume company. These worsened after her mother’s suicide until she finally found a doctor who helped her, teaching her to explore the mythological symbolism in her visions and thus lessen their painful impact. This ability led Jac to a wildly successful career as a mythologist, television personality and author.

When her brother, Robbie—who’s taken over the House of L’Etoile from their father—contacts Jac about a remarkable discovery in the family archives, she’s skeptical. But when Robbie goes missing before he can share the secret—leaving a dead body in his wake—Jac is plunged into a world she thought she’d left behind.

Traveling back to Paris to investigate Robbie’s disappearance, Jac discovers that the secret is a mysterious scent developed in Cleopatra’s time. Could the rumors swirling be true? Can this ancient perfume hold the power to unlock the ability to remember past lives and conclusively prove reincarnation? If this possession has the power to change the world, then it’s not only worth living for . . . it’s worth killing for, too.

The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion and suspense in an intoxicating web that moves from Cleopatra’s Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet’s battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. This marvelous, spellbinding novel mixes the sensory allure of Perfume with the heartbreaking beauty of The Time Traveler’s Wife, coming to life as richly as our most wildly imagined dreams. -- Atria

When I saw reviews popping up for THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES by M.J. Rose, I knew I had to read it. I have been a fan of Ms. Rose's ever since reading THE REINCARNATIONIST, and I have continued to enjoy each of her books about reincarnation and memory tools. I think I say this every time that I finish one of them, but her latest just might be the best one yet.

THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES is almost impossible to describe in just a few sentences, but I'll try to give you a pretty high level summary. This novel tells the story of Jac, a woman who has fled to American from France to escape the memories of her childhood... and especially the ones surrounding the suicide of her mother. When her brother disappears under some very mysterious circumstances, Jac returns home to help uncover the mystery of her brother's whereabouts; however, she is also forced to consider some other mysteries including whether there is a scent that can unlock the mystery of reincarnation.

THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES really has it all! It is part mystery and part suspense, and it even includes a little romance and the supernatural (well it's actually reincarnation, but it is strange enough that I count it as supernatural.) It is also part historical fiction in that the book takes place in many countries over thousands of years. It moves from present day New York City to France to Cleopatra's Egypt to revolutionary France to Tibet to China. And believe it not, all of these places and periods tie together perfectly to solve Jac's question about the lost fragrance.

I have a feeling that you might be thinking that THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES doesn't sound like a book that I would normally read, and I have to agree with you. While I do read my fair share of mysteries and suspense, there is no doubt that this book is different than anything I've read.  Maybe that's one of the reasons that I enjoyed it so much -- it is so original. However, I think there's probably more to it than that.

First and foremost, this book has wonderful characters. Fans of Ms. Rose's books will be glad to see that Malachai is back looking for another one of the memory tools; however, I personally loved Jac and her brother. They were interesting and extremely likable, and I thought Ms. Rose developed them perfectly for a suspense novel -- just enough that I felt like I knew them, but not so much to lose the gist of the action and mystery.

In addition, I thought Ms. Rose did an amazing job of presenting the story. I loved how the chapters went back and forth between the different time periods and places and characters, and I was so impressed with how everything came together at the end. The pace of the novel was also very well done, and I was hooked on the story from the first few pages and it just kept getting better and better as the story unfolded.

And finally, I loved the premise of the novel -- the search for a lost fragrance that just might be a key to memory and ultimately reincarnation. I found it so intriguing that Ms. Rose used Cleopatra's lost book of fragrance formulas as the basis for her story, and her creativity allowed her to develop an amazing story. It's apparent that she did a huge amount of research to write this book, and I appreciated that she included a glossary of her fascinating research in the back of the book.

Despite having pretty high expectations regarding Ms. Rose's writing skills, I still managed to be surprised by just how good THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES was. I think Ms. Rose is a fantastic storyteller, but this novel went to a whole new level for me. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for sending a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


Serena said...

I am so glad you loved this book as much as I did. I think its the best out of all of them so far. I cannot wait for the next one. There has to be a next one, right?!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I was the one person on earth I think that was less than imposed with her earlier books. I liked how they went back multiple lives, and there was some great history in there, but the action seemed Scooby Doo. Still, I did pick up a copy of this book at SIBA because I am really into the sense of smell. It is definitely my favorite sense! I may give this one a shot.

Beth Hoffman said...

Wonderful review, Julie! I have this book on my list and hope to read it soon.

Anonymous said...

This is on my list, I can't wait to read it. I'm so happy to see such positive reviews.

Audra said...

Great review! I'm reading this now and enjoying it -- it's a fun premise for a historical thriller.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I had a totally different idea of what this was about, and now I can't wait to read it!

bermudaonion said...

I haven't tried Rose's work yet, but know a lot of people who love it. This sounds excellent!

Mystica said...

Thank you for such a comprehensive review.