Scent of Darkness is moody, dark and mysterious and the type of book I like to read from time to time. The premise instantly reminded me of the novel Perfume, another book about the dangerous power of scent. In this story, a made-for-her fragrance changes a character’s life and makes her dangerously alluring to everyone in her path. Scent of Darkness drew me in, and I got lost in its magical spell. The New Orleans setting is an enchanting backdrop to the story.
Evangeline (Eva) is 18 and spends her summers with her grandmother Louise in New York. Her grandmother believes in magic and is a powerful perfumer. When she dies, she leaves Eva a bottle of custom scented perfume with a note of caution not to open it unless you want everything in your life to change. It would take a very strong person not to open that vial, and Eva is not that person. The fragrance has the essence of leather, rose and jasmine and becomes a part of her from the moment it touches her skin. Every person (or animal) near her becomes obsessed with her scent and wants to be closer to her. It’s like an extreme love potion.
Of course, Eva’s love life improves and her object of affection, Gabriel, a medical student, becomes infatuated with her. But things get complicated when another man, the artist Michael, enters her life. Once things get a little out of control, she needs help solving the mystery of the scent’s powers and discovering what her grandmother’s intent was with the magical perfume. Helping her is her tarot card reading teenage neighbor Levon, one of my favorite characters in the book.
This is not going to be a book for everyone- it has that dreamy, seductive quality of books such as Imaginary Girls, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, and Perfume, and other books with magical realism. It also has a horror-esque, unsettling feeling to it. Most of the characters are cryptic and I felt somewhat detached, though the mystery of the plot kept me reading.
This book is technically in the Fiction category, however with it’s eighteen year old protagonist it has New Adult appeal. The writing is accessible, with short chapters, and a quick read at only 220 pages. The twisty plot unfolds like a horror movie and had me on edge. It’s the first book I’ve read by Margot Berwin (Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire) and it’s haunting, consuming and creative.
If Scent of Darkness sounds like your kind of book, let me know in the comments and I’ll send you my hardcover copy (US readers please). (UPDATE: Book has been claimed)
- Margot Berwin: Scent of Darkness (2013) (beautyisasleepingcat.wordpress.com)
- Book Notes – Margot Berwin “Scent of Darkness” (largeheartedboy.com)