The Perfume Thief
Timothy Schaffert’s thrilling novel about the underground resistance of twentieth-century Paris carries the theme of perfumery as the plot twists and turns with romance, espionage, champagne towers and haute couture. Clementine, a seventy-two year-old reformed con artist with an impeccable sense of style, starts out on an unbelievable journey with a thrilling climax.
Her life of crime has led her from the uber-wealthy perfume junkies of belle epoque Manhattan, to the scented butterflies of Costa Rica, to the spice markets of Marrakech, and finally the bordellos of Paris, where she settles down in 1930 and opens a shop bottling her favorite extracts for the ladies of the cabarets.
Now it’s 1941 and Clem’s favorite haunt, Madame Boulette’s, is crawling with Nazis, while Clem’s people–the outsiders, the artists, and the hustlers who used to call it home–are disappearing. Clem’s first instinct is to go to ground–it’s a frigid Paris winter and she’s too old to put up a fight. But when the cabaret’s prize songbird, Zoe St. Angel, recruits Clem to steal the recipe book of a now-missing famous Parisian perfumer, she can’t say no. Her mark is Oskar Voss, a Francophile Nazi bureaucrat, who wants the book and Clem’s expertise to himself. Hoping to buy the time and trust she needs to pull off her scheme, Clem settles on a novel strategy: Telling Voss the truth about the life and loves she came to Paris to escape.
“A Gentleman in Moscow meets ‘Moulin Rouge’ in this stylish, sexy page-turner set in Paris on the ever of World War II, where Clementine, a queer American ex-pat and notorious thief, is drawn out of retirement and into one last scam when the Nazis invade…a superb novel,” wrote the Los Angeles Times ranking it one of the top 10 books of summer 2021.