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'The Collector of Dying Breaths' brings together past and present

M.J. Rose and the cover of her new novel, 'The Collector of Dying Breaths'
M.J. Rose and the cover of her new novel, 'The Collector of Dying Breaths'
The Collector of Dying Breaths: Atria Books (April 8, 2014); MJ Rose photo by Judith Pushett, used with permission

“The Collector of Dying Breaths” by M.J. Rose brings together two stories, one from the 16th century, the other modern day. The fascinating historical portion of this novel revolves around René le Florentine. That story begins in 1573, with René recalling the story of his life, which included time spent training to become a perfumer, as a prisoner when he is found guilty of murder, and later, in the court of Catherine de Medici. Like the man who trained him, René is far more than an ordinary perfumer. He is dedicated to finding a secret—how to reanimate a dead person’s soul by capturing their final breath.

In current day, Jac L’Etoile is suffering from the loss of her brother when she is contacted by the woman who was his last employer. Upon visiting her brother’s laboratory, Jac begins to experience frequent flashbacks that connect her with a previous life. She doesn’t realize it at first, but as the flashbacks become more frequent and intense, she learns they involve René and the search for the secret to reanimate a soul.

René is the most fascinating character in “The Collector of Dying Breaths.” He’s a man of great passion, but has always restrained himself. Jac, the current-day protagonist, is not only troubled by the loss of her brother, but the incidence of the flashbacks.

“The Collector of Dying Breaths” is a story of choices—not only those of the characters, but also those of the author. For instance, the style of writing is consistent, whether the chapter is current day or historical. Historical information and details about the craft of perfumery in the book add authenticity. Some readers will find this bogs down the story, others will relish Rose’s attention to detail.

FTC Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided by its publisher.