Base Notes by Lara Elena Donnelly is one of the most gripping, compelling and splendidly sordid books I’ve read in a long time. It’s a roller coaster ride through a private quest to bring memories to life…at any cost.
Base Notes is the story of perfumist Vic Fowler. Vic has perfected a way to craft custom scents for clients who wish to remember very specific moments in time. The main ingredient of those scents is Vic’s biggest secret, and it’s worth dying for.
Make no mistake about it: we’re not talking about Vic’s death here. Vic is an accomplished killer who uses the bodies of his victims to prepare scents for the discerning clients.
Murder doesn’t come cheap, and neither do Vic’s scents. When an order comes through that pushes the bounds of Vic’s creativity – and resources – the perfumist turns to outsourcing. But it’s a very delicate dance, one that puts Vic at risk.
You know that moment when you’re on a roller coaster, the old fashioned wooden type that relies on gravity to create the speed you’re craving? You’re buckled into the car and the chain is pulling you up a steep hill. Tick. Tick. Tick. You look around to take in the scenery. As you approach the top the anticipation builds and boils over as you reach the peak and start the descent, and from there everything is a blur until the very end.
That’s Base Notes in a nutshell.
Donnelly’s prose is lush and incredibly vivid. Like the notes of a fine fragrance, every word holds weight and intent. She describes everything with painstaking detail, and it’s in those details that Vic’s story really comes to life. Vic is an inspired – and twisted – narrator. Vic’s allure is in the smug reassurance that motivates every decision and drives every action forward no matter what the cost.
The final fifty pages or so will leave you reeling.
If you’re a fan of Dexter, you’ll appreciate Base Notes and Vic’s dedication to the craft. More than anything, though, it’s the journey that you’ll really appreciate. Donnelly painstakingly sets the stage and once you go over the cliff things start going fast. The visceral, raw intensity of Vic’s actions almost make you queasy but you’re compelled to keep going, much the same as when you reach the top of the roller coaster and start questioning your life decisions…but you get right back in line to ride again once it’s over.
Base Notes is like a slow burn romance, but with murder instead of a love story. And it’s one hell of a ride.