Short Takes: Book reviews, in brief

April 18, 2014 


The Collector of Dying Breaths

M.J. Rose, Atria, 384 pages

M.J. Rose’s “The Collector of Dying Breaths” combines fascinating history, torrid romance and a compelling mystery into a marvelous package that will entice fans of Anne Rice and Diana Gabaldon.

In 1573, an apprentice to a perfumer grants the dying wish of his teacher and poisons him to speed his passing so he won’t suffer a slow and lingering death. Rene le Florentine is thrown into prison, and while languishing in his own filth and despair, he is rescued by Catherine de Medici, who asks him to become her perfumer. He guarantees that he will grant her every request.

In present day, Jac L’Etoile suffers from the devastating loss of her brother. It was his dying request that she take over his perfume business. She begins to accept the possibility when she learns he had been spending a good deal of time with the owners of a mansion hidden away in Barbizon, France, the same location where, centuries earlier, Rene had created his perfume.

Jac soon realizes that her brother was involved in trying to recreate Rene’s experiments in an attempt to reanimate life using a combination of certain scents and an individual’s dying breath. Jac has the last breath her brother took stored in a bottle. Can she finish the task and succeed where others have not?

Rose has taken an interesting premise and uses history to tell her tale. “The Collector of Dying Breaths” is an original reading experience.

Associated Press


Poison Spring

E.G. Vallianatos with McKay Jenkins, Bloomsbury, 304 pages

E.G. Vallianatos’ complaints about the heavy influence that large corporations wield over the U.S. government and environmental policy won’t be news to anyone who follows the debates over genetically modified crops or the ingredients in popular cosmetics. What is surprising and depressing in “Poison Spring,” however, is when that influence began, especially over the regulation of pesticides.

According to Vallianatos, even at the dawn of the Environmental Protection Agency, when Republicans and Democrats alike claimed to be green champions, corporations were working within the agency to undermine public health and safety and protect themselves, not the planet.

Vallianatos worked at the EPA for 25 years, starting in 1979. With journalist McKay Jenkins, he chronicles his frustrations and those of some of his colleagues over thwarted attempts to regulate and inform the public about pesticides and other chemicals used on farms and in homes.

Vallianatos’ outrage sometimes gets bogged down in scientific jargon, but he makes a solid, damning case against putting political appointees in charge of a regulatory agency, as well as corporate claims about product safety. “Poison Spring” is Vallianatos’ call to arms, urging American consumers to hold their government accountable for policies that protect and reward polluters.

Associated Press

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service