The sense of smell is one of the more primal and powerful senses that human beings possess - a tantalising aroma is more than capable of subverting even the most focussed of minds just as it is capable of conjuring up vivid memories of scenes or moments long gone. And as Jac L'Etoile, heroine of M.J. Roses's book, “The Collector of Dying Breaths” is all too aware, scent and memory entwined can be as much a blessing as it is a curse.
Heiress to a perfuming empire, it becomes readily apparent just as to why Jac would rather follow her own path rather than tread in the family's footsteps: particular scents can cause vivid flashbacks into times long gone.
This ability becomes quite useful as the story of the book diffuses, as the plot takes us back to the 16th century court of Catherine de Medici, and more precisely to René le Florentin. He is not only one of the greatest perfumers of his age, but also the most dangerous in that he is a master poisoner as well as a perfumer; despite his protesting conscience.
The story begins in earnest once René's work is uncovered five hundred years later by Jac and sparks both passion and obsession in that René may have indeed discovered the secret of immortality, a veritable elixir of life that yet requires one very particular and exotic ingredient to be brought to fruition...
The story is a heady one; it is a thriller; well-written and believable with a powerful story with evocative descriptions of both perfumes and people diffused without. Well worth a read!