The Book of Lost Fragrances by MJ Rose
Publisher: Atria/March 2012
Kind thanks to Atria and NetGalley for providing a review copy
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 was a nice change of pace for me. Jac L’etoile is a woman haunted by her past and also by the auditory and visual hallucinations she’s had as a child. Smell is a huge component of that, having been raised in a family of perfumers, and she has a natural ability for fragrance. However, she’s chosen a different path, as the creator and producer of Mythfinders, which originally sought to debunk myths, but has evolved into finding the true stories that started the myths in the first place. When Jac’s brother, Robbie, tells Jac about a discovery that could possibly lead to a scent that could take someone into their past lives, Jac is drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse. And when Robbie goes missing, it becomes clear that more than one person is interested in past lives, and they’ll do anything to get their hands on the secret.
If you’re looking for a read that will transport you to another time and place, this is the one. Jac is a wounded, yet relatable character, and her devotion to finding her brother is her driving force. There is some romance in the form of an ex love of Jac’s that offers his help, and the author keeps you on your toes since you never quite know who you can trust. Fascinating storylines about Cleopatra, living Buddhas, Chinese history (and Triads), not to mention locations ranging from Egypt, to New York, and Paris will keep you turning the pages. I especially enjoyed a trip into the catacombs that sprawl under Paris, and contain the bones of millions of the dead. If you love a good, rich mystery, combined with historical details and lyrical prose, you’ll really enjoy The Book of Lost Fragrances.