Saturday, January 13, 2007

C.L. Kelly's Scent ~ Reviewed

By C.L. Kelly
Published by Zondervan
ISBN: 0310262992

We’re off to a running start in the opening pages of Scent. Perfumer Mark Dixon is alone in a New Guinea rain forest, tantalizingly close to the discovery of a lifetime—an orchid whose scent is so bewitching that local natives consider it sacred. Back home, his wife Cassie is fighting her way through a jungle, too—the corporate one. Their company, Azure World, is on the point of collapse, and their rivals are moving in for the kill. Mark and Cassie’s financial survival depends on Mark finding this new fragrance.

In its early pages, the book switches between Mark’s adventures in the rain forest and Cassie’s attempts to keep their struggling company away from the wolves. Layer after layer of complications arise on both sides of the globe. Mark finds the orchid, but fights injury, animals, and natives to get away with the scent. Back home, the head of a rival company—and Mark’s old flame—attempts a hostile takeover of Azure World. Someone’s sabotaging their product, and an armed intruder threatens Cassie and her daughter at home. All connected? Cassie suspects so, but how—and why?

Finally, Mark arrives home with the new fragrance, and it’s everything they had hoped. Soon they’re on top of the world, with the money and accolades rolling in. But the problems are just beginning. It appears the mysterious scent is every bit as powerful as the worshipful natives thought—and not in a benevolent way. And someone is still stalking Mark and Cassie, still plotting against them.

Scent is a real page-turner. Kelly uses a number of methods to build suspense. Sometimes the author keeps the reader in the dark, filling the story with twists and turns and unexpected revelations. But he lets us see the fatal flaw in the new fragrance long before the characters. Using numerous points of view, he creates a range of intriguing characters and shows their horrifying encounters with the perfume. We know Mark and Cassie are in for a huge fall even as they are blissfully unaware. But so much is happening in the story, we wonder just where and how the disaster will come.

The spiritual angle of Scent is handled skillfully. Mark and Cassie’s pursuit of success pushes God out of their lives, and they seem to have little need for him when they’re at their peak. Will they realize their need before they fall? The message is obvious but is handled subtly and with compassion. A minister with a fondness for gaudy clothing and bad jokes makes a gentle messenger.

My one quibble with Scent is that it pushed the bounds of believability on a couple of occasions. At the beginning of the story, Mark is only in the rain forest for a few days, but Cassie first decides to go ahead and start an advertising blitz for their new fragrance—when she doesn’t even know whether he’s found the flower. A couple of days later, she’s discouraged and starts proceedings to sell the company to their rival. I couldn’t imagine a legitimate businessperson—with a co-director who is also her spouse—behaving in such a manner. On the other hand, I continued turning the pages, wondering if Mark would make it home before Cassie did something outrageous. So if you can suspend your disbelief, you’re in for an enjoyable, fast-paced read.

Reviewed by Robin Johns Grant

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