Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Fiction: The Hypnotist by M.J. Rose

The prolific and talented M.J. Rose has long been known to January Magazine. To us, sometimes she feels like a personal discovery. Back in the late 1990s, we were among the first to review her self-published novel, Lip Service. So it’s pleasing to be able to report that, more than a decade on, this author just keeps getting better and better.

We see this clearly in her latest outing, The Hypnotist (MIRA Books), the most recent book in her bestselling Reincarnationist series that was also the inspiration for Past Life, the Fox television series that aired this spring.

The Hypnotist is the third of this series, after The Reincarnationist and The Memoirist. Of the three, The Hypnotist is far and away my personal favorite. This is due in one part to the fact that Rose is a writer who seems committed to sharpening her voice and her skills: every book really is better than the last. The other part, for me, is thematic. In The Hypnotist Rose returns to some of the themes I really enjoyed in her earlier works -- notably 2002’s breathtaking Flesh Tones -- a book that was never given the attention it deserved. These are themes that Rose does as well as anyone currently writing, notably art and love and how those things can impact one upon the other.

In The Hypnotist we again meet Dr. Malachai Samuels, director of The Phoenix Foundation, dedicated to the examination and evaluation of past lives.

FBI agent Lucian Glass can’t forget the murder of the young painter who was his lover. When a crazed art collector begins destroying masterworks, Lucian goes undercover at the Phoenix Foundation where he is taken on an incredible journey that vaults him to ancient Greece, 19th century Persia and more modern destinations. In the process, Lucian discovers a plot to steal Hypnos, the 1500-year-old sculpture of the Greek God of sleep: a work of art that is rumored to hold an incredible secret. Along the way, Rose fans a controversial flame: is art owned by a museum or the country in which the piece originated?

The Hypnotist is a stunningly satisfying read. Thoughtful, fast-paced and subtly sensual, this is one of the best books thus far from a really terrific writer.

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