Perfume (Read Red) (Amazon Link)
Oh the high hopes I had for this one. Possibly my favourite book of all time is Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, closely followed by The Name of the Rose. I love Eco's descriptive power, his joy of language and his intricate plotting, densely written structure. So anything that smacks of Eco tends to draw me towards it.
Perfume was one of those books that I bought hoping I'd get an Eco-like hit from it. And sure enough, it started out like an Umberto Eco; historical, descriptive, loads of intrigue. The premise of Perfume is fascinating; it chronicles the life of a man whose sense of smell is so acute he becomes a master perfumier in 18th C France. But his desire to accumulate and collect smells becomes obsessional and murderous.
The early portions of the book, detailing the ascent from squalor on the Parisian streets to the lofty position of master perfumier is excellent. Unfortunately despite sound plotting and certain dramatic and descriptive flourishes this was no Eco. At best, it was Eco-lite. But it petered out somewhat towards the end of the story and finished with an unfortunate whimper. A disappointment, but an enjoyable one nonetheless.