I just came back from Paris.
Well, not really. I did, however, just finish a book that took place in Paris, and the descriptions of the city, of the atmosphere, were so vivid, I felt like I was there. So, it is kind of the same thing, right?
To anyone that has actually been to Paris, probably not. But that is one of the most glorious things about reading. You can go anywhere and still sit on your couch whilst eating a bag of Milano cookies (not that I did that, of course).
The book that wholly transported me to Paris with my treats was The Forgetting Flower, a mystery/thriller novel by Karen Hugg.
It should be said that I am a HEAVY young adult reader. I read almost exclusively young adult fantasy/urban fantasy – with some historical fiction thrown in for good measure (Philippa Gregory, anyone?). I almost never read mysteries or thrillers. It should also be said that I began reading The Forgetting Flower with hesitation and reluctance.
Because I was wrong. So, so wrong.
Let me first commend Karen’s writing style: quick and snappy, with enough eloquent description to transport the reader into the world, yet curt enough to get to the point. Have you ever read a book that seemed to go on for pages describing one thing, i.e. a feeling, emotion, tree branch – and you think to yourself, get we please come back to the plot? You will never have that thought – not once. The writing is polished and precise, as is the dialogue. I found myself smirking and applauding at the bite the main character, Renia serves with statements such as “Is anyone surprised to see a spider? Yes, but not in a good way.”
Speaking of snappy, Renia is both likeable and relatable – a combination I find difficult to achieve in creating characters. She encompasses a no-nonsense personality as she boldly mouths off mob bosses, yet sometimes has difficulty speaking her truth, as evidenced by her relationship with the flower shop’s owner, Madame Palomer.
But at this point you might be wondering, what does this have to do with flowers? One flower, to be precise, called the Violet Smoke, which emits a scent that causes whomever inhales its smell of “burnt apricots” (as Renia describes it) to forget.
Forget what? Whatever you want them to forget. And then the victim is at the mercy of whoever offered them the petals to forge a new story or new memory to plant in their brains. You can see why something like this, in the wrong hands, could create problems.
And that is exactly what is does for Renia, as the book opens with the death of her close friend, Alain. It is unapparent at the start of the book if the death was suicide or if foul play was at hand, but Renia’s other concern is the fact that Alain knew of the flower’s ability and was adamant about getting his hands on its petals to alleviate some bad memories of his own. Could the Violet Smoke have been the reason behind Alain’s death?
The Violet Smoke then brings forth an old enemy who is also intent on getting his sticky fingers on its petals for sinister purposes. With his arrival, we are offered bits and pieces of an intricately woven backstory that entwines another mystery: why is Renia no longer speaking to her sister, Estera – her twin sister? What happened leading up to present-day Paris that caused two sisters, revealed to be extremely close, to no longer be on speaking terms and for one to have left the other behind in Poland?
Then, Karen throws another intriguing fact upon the reader: the Violet Smoke originally belonged to Estera. So, how did Renia come to call it hers, and what were the circumstances that caused her to uproot her life away from her family and take an insidious plant with her? Especially now, that the Violet Smoke seems be entirely more trouble than it is worth when black-market mobsters come knocking at Renia’s door.
Intrigue, danger, and Paris – PARIS – await you in Karen Hugg’s The Forgetting Flower. You will find yourself entirely immersed in this Parisienne world and a main character who has a sharp mind and an even sharper tongue. I guess you can say, this book has a…what do they call it? Je ne sais qoui…