Reading the third book in a series without having read its prequels can sometimes be a little bit weird, even if each novel is a complete story. This may be one of the reasons that M.J. Rose’s latest novel, The Hypnotist has been a “slow” read for me – because I sense that there are relationships and backstories that I’m missing. In fact, my mentioning this here in this blog a couple of days ago caught the attention of the author herself, and she left a note expressing concern. Let me say right now that any author who takes the time to check in with a reader has to be pretty cool, but then, if you’ve read anything M.J. Rose has written, that should be pretty obvious.
While neither the plot nor the structure of The Hypnotist bear any resemblance to one of my all-time favorite contemporary novels, The Eight, by Katherine Neville, I found that this book reminded me of the other nevertheless. Perhaps it’s the way the author excels at conveying a strong sense of place. Much of The Hypnotist takes place in libraries and museums, and I found my breath changing with each change of scene, as if some imaginary curator or librarian might shush me for exhaling too loudly.
But I digress.
The Hypnotist opens with the brutal murder of a young painter, and the near-murder of her lover, one Lucian Glass. Twenty years later, Glass is an FBI agent assigned to the Art Crime Team. He’s involved in the investigation of an extremely unstable art collector who has been destroying masterpieces in order to make some kind of a statement, and it is this investigation that sends Glass undercover to the Phoenix Foundation, run by Dr. Malachai Samuels, an expert in hypnotism and past-life regression.
Reincarnation isn’t just a character hook for Samuels, however. Glass is haunted as much by partly-glimpsed past lives of his own as he is by the memory of his lover, and her death. It’s not surprising, then, that art, history, intrigue, and the study of reincarnation all twist together to form the threads of a gripping tale that I both didn’t want to, and could not put down.
Rose’s characters are well-drawn, with enough detail to make them seem real, but not so much that the reader can’t put his or her own imagination to work. Her plot twists are plausible without being too obvious. Her prose is simple, but effective.
Read this book because the story is fabulous, but don’t be surprised if you, as I did, found yourself wanting to visit Persia, spend a rainy afternoon at an art museum, and curl up in a comfortably worn library chair with a treasured read.
To learn more about the author or her work, check out her website: M.J.Rose.com
Goes well with: mint tea and chicken shawarma, or a hot pretzel with mustard.