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The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose
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's review
Mar 23, 2012

really liked it
Read in March, 2012

MJ Rose
Enter the world of renowned perfumes. This world goes beyond our common understanding of a pretty smell used to attract the opposite sex or identify us to our family and friends. This world goes back to ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and the ancient Egyptians, when Cleopatra had a royal perfumer make secret scents only for her.
Our story begins in today’s world, with a pair of siblings, Jac and Robbie, who are the last of their family to own a failing three hundred year old perfumery. Jac wants to sell three of their most famous brands to save the rest of the business, Robbie refuses. But that is not really the story here.
Jac is a “nose”. Her olfactory gland is so sophisticated and educated that she can break down smells to their every molecule. Even more important, she can detect emotions, “the fragrance of comfort”, the odor of the past and everything in it. She has moved to New York to escape the world of perfume, which she believes contributed to the hallucinations she had suffered as a teenager, and left her brother Robbie in Paris to deal with the family business.
While cleaning up the mess left by his father in the perfumery, Robbie comes across some small pottery shards which still carry a faint scent of the fragrance they once held. His nose is not as exquisite as his sister’s and he cannot define what the characteristics are. News of the shards spreads through a certain number of people who believe the pots once held the fragrance of memory and are the key to reincarnation, if Jac will identify the scents.
Robbie mysteriously disappears, along with the shards and Jac comes to Paris to try to find him. When she enters the perfumery again, the fragrances overwhelm her and she hallucinates. She finds herself transported to 1794, experiencing a nun being raped and thrown into a river to drown. It feels like she is there for an hour or more, but when she recovers, it has been only a few minutes and the people around her ask if she is okay because she seemed “in another world”. Between her desperate fear for her brother, and for her own mental health, Jac tries to deal with the local police detective, the psychologist she believes restored her mental health before, and a former lover, Griffin, now a friend of Robbie’s.
The story moves swiftly and twists and turns as the different groups, Jac and Griffin, and the police look for Robbie. There are the monks from Tibet who need the key to reincarnation for proof of their new Dali Lama, the psychologist Malachi who wants to have the tools to reincarnation memory at any cost, the Chinese Triad trying to stop the Tibetans, and Jac is an obstructionist as she fights against the belief that the pot shards might be the key to the memory of reincarnation as she continues to have hallucinations of people related to her in the past.
Like all good books, this one will keep the reader enthralled to the end, and give a happy ending too. With all the research Ms Rose has put into this book, she should have enough material to write a sequel.
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