A popular game among fragonerds on various websites is "scent the character"-- from books, movies, and TV shows. Elizabeth Bennet is a perennial favorite (Bluebell?), Betty Draper (Diorissimo?) and Joan Holloway (Shalimar, of course, but also Cuir de Russie) always make appearances when Mad Men is running, and Lady Mary is a newer obsession (Mitsouko!). But what happens when the author herself is a card-carrying perfumista? The answer: You get a protagonist with a perfume collection who carries samples and decants in her purse.
Author Denise Hamilton is known in the online perfume community for her Los Angeles Times articles about scent, as well as an avid participants in various forums. The heroine she created, Maggie Silver, has a perfume habit (also an Adderall habit, but that's less fun). Maggie is a PR consultant who specialized in damage control-- cleaning up the messes of the rich and powerful. A new and important client brings back people and events from her youth, most importantly her friendship with Annabel Paxton, the girl we all wanted to be in high school. It was a very formative relationship, the kind most of us had at a similar age, making some of the flashbacks very poignant.
Damage Control tells a fast-paced story that paints believable pictures of the 1990s beach culture, contemporary downtown L.A., of politicians and the people who cater to them. The plot grabbed me from the very first pages, even before Chergui and Feminite du Bois made their cameo appearances. There are some excellent perfume observations and quips ("If Satan wore cologne in hell, it would be Kouros"), but ultimately Damage Control is a clever thriller full of twists and turns, intriguing characters, and a noir-ish atmosphere. Knowing the perfumes mentioned or the reference to The Guide adds an extra layer of fun (the husband got a kick out of it) but isn't necessary. I wonder if some readers new to fragrance ended up googling and ordering samples (and maybe even reading a perfume blog or two).
Damage Control by Denise Hamilton ($10.38 for the Kindle edition) is available from Amazon.
Photo credit: Corbis.