Series: The Reincarnationist #4
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Atria Books)
Pub date: 13 March 2012
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Synopsis (From GoodReads)
Jac L’Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances—and of her mother’s suicide—she moves to America, leaving the company in the hands of her brother Robbie. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing—leaving a dead body in his wake—Jac is plunged into a world she thought she’d left behind.
Back in Paris to investigate her brother’s disappearance, Jac discovers a secret the House of L’Etoile has been hiding since 1799: a scent that unlocks the mysteries of reincarnation. The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra’s Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet’s battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. Jac’s quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.
If you have been following my blog, you’ll already know that I’m a big fan of M.J. Rose’s The Reincarnationist series. (Read my reviews of The Reincarnationist, The Memorist and The Hypnotist). While not obviously marketed as book 4 of The Reincarnationist series, I think it fits right in. But it can also easily be read as a stand-alone. Rose explores scent as a medium for invoking past life memories. Through the story, you also learn a lot about perfumes – which made me giddy with imagined scents, and was a great way to learn more about perfumes and perfumers.
Jac and Robbie L’Etoile come from a long line of perfumers. Traumatised by her visions and the suicide of her mother, Jac turns her back on the family business and moves to America to become a mythologist (and busts mythologies on her TV show). But the family business is still part of her life and she has to deal with it when she finds out that the perfume business is almost bankrupt. Robbie, the romantic one, is convinced that he can save the business if he manages to recreate an ancient scent that has the power to cause past-life memories. Traces of this scent are believed to be in some shards of Egyptian pottery that the family has owned for generations. But once news of its existence becomes known, dangerous forces want to get their hands on it and will stop at nothing to get possession of the pottery and the scent.
Set between present day Paris, revolutionary Paris, Cleopatra’s Egypt, and dealing with the political/spiritual issues in Tibet, this is a tale of intrigue and suspense. While reincarnation and past-life memories are the aspects that keeps me talking about this series, The Book of Lost Fragrances is extra-special to me because it also deals with the religious persecution of the Buddhists in China and Tibet. Reincarnation is a big part of the belief system and one that is essential to the choosing of the next Dalai Lama.
Rose has given us a strong likable protagonist in Jac, someone who is assailed by her power to “see” the past and is struggling to accept it and make sense of it. Another favourite characters in the series, Malachai Samuels make an appearance and, as always, leaves us wondering about his motivations.
Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys reading an adventure story about past-life memories and reincarnation. Also a great read for those interested in scents and perfumes.
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