The Book of Lost Fragrances by M. J. Rose
Here's something a bit different. This exotic, intriguing book is called "a novel of suspense" on the cover, but there are elements of thriller, family saga, and romance sprinkled in.
The House of L'Etoile, a French perfume company that has been in the L'Etoile family for generations, has fallen upon hard times. The present owners, brother and sister, Robbie and Jac, different on how to save the business, to the point of estrangement. Jac is a mythology expert who has her own cable TV show and has built her career of demystifying myths, finding the actual historical roots many of them sprang from. One such myth is her ancestor's tale of the Fragrance of Memory, a perfume that makes you remember things, maybe even past lives. Since their father was declared incompetent six months ago (their mother died when they were children), Robbie has been running the business in Paris. Only after Robbie, a student of Buddhism in recent years, took the reins did the siblings realize how close to bankruptcy they are.
One solution to their woes would be to sell their two most popular lines, Rouge and Noir. But the two have very different ideas about this. Past lovers intrude into their lives and Jac fights to retain her fragile grip on sanity, earned after a stay in a mental institution when she was in her teens.
Everything swirls around a vial of ancient perfume and its recipe, said to have been found in the tomb of two lovers, by Gile L'Etoile, perfumer to Napoléon. Some pieces of inscribed, broken pottery, found in their father's disorganized workshop, may be the remnants of that vial. But, if they are, international rival groups, as well as some unexpected others, are quite determined to get their hands on the shards. The cost of human life isn't counted very high to some of them.
The novel ranges the globe, but I would give away too much if I told you where you'll end up for the breathless conclusion.
Reviewed by Kaye George, Author of Choke, for Suspense Magazine