This novel, which is set in the 16th century court of Catherine de Medici, features the alchemical science around the production of elixirs, both poisonous and perfumed, and the intrigue associated with mystical divination of the perfumer. Creating deadly poisons for a deadly queen is not without some danger and René le Florentin, plucked from obscurity to be the Queen’s perfumer gets drawn into dangerous circumstances.
In the present day, renowned mythologist, Jac L’Etoile, becomes obsessed with the work of René le Florentin, and when she discovers that he may have been working on an elixir that would unlock the secret to immortality, Jac becomes obsessed with the notion of René’s dying breath collection.
This dual time narrative blends the violent days of the Medici court, with 21st Century France and uncovers a story of corruption, violence and obsession, which transcends time. Although this is an interesting idea for a novel, reminiscent of Patrick Suskind’s Perfume, I’m not sure that on the whole the story really really worked for me. I found myself losing interest in places, particularly with the present day narrative, which I felt was a little clumsy in places. I much preferred the 16th century story, in which the author expertly captured the menace and obsession which is associated with the court of Catherine de Medici.
Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for my copy of this book to read and review.