The Perfume Thief is a spirited and singular story of Paris in World War II, told by a daring septuagenarian con artist attempting one last great heist. It’s 1941 and Clementine realizes she should have left Paris when she could, before all of her beloved artists and hustlers disappeared. Now she is trapped, finding amusements where she can and creating exotic scents for the lucky few. When the daughter of famous perfumer asks her to steal back her father’s diary from a particularly odious Nazi, Clementine cannot refuse. Schaffert brings all the sights and senses of Paris to life in this unforgettable story of resistance.— From Elaine & Luisa's Picks: Summer 2021
A LOS ANGELES TIMES TOP 10 BEST BOOK OF THE SUMMER
A Gentleman in Moscow meets Moulin Rouge in this stylish, sexy page-turner set in Paris on the eve of World War II, where Clementine, a queer American ex-pat and notorious thief, is drawn out of retirement and into one last scam when the Nazis invade.
A] superb novel . . . This is historical fiction at its finest, vivid and beautifully rendered.--EMILY ST JOHN MANDEL author of The Glass Hotel
Clementine is a seventy-two year-old reformed con artist with a penchant for impeccably tailored suits. Her life of crime has led her from the uber-wealthy perfume junkies of belle epoque Manhattan, to the scented butterflies of Costa Rica, to the spice markets of Marrakech, and finally the bordellos of Paris, where she settles down in 1930 and opens a shop bottling her favorite extracts for the ladies of the cabarets.
Now it's 1941 and Clem's favorite haunt, Madame Boulette's, is crawling with Nazis, while Clem's people--the outsiders, the artists, and the hustlers who used to call it home--are disappearing. Clem's first instinct is to go to ground--it's a frigid Paris winter and she's too old to put up a fight. But when the cabaret's prize songbird, Zoe St. Angel, recruits Clem to steal the recipe book of a now-missing famous Parisian perfumer, she can't say no. Her mark is Oskar Voss, a Francophile Nazi bureaucrat, who wants the book and Clem's expertise to himself. Hoping to buy the time and trust she needs to pull off her scheme, Clem settles on a novel strategy: Telling Voss the truth about the life and loves she came to Paris to escape.
Complete with romance, espionage, champagne towers, and haute couture, this full-tilt sensory experience is a dazzling portrait of the underground resistance of twentieth-century Paris and a passionate love letter to the power of beauty and community in the face of insidious hate.
About the Author
TIMOTHY SCHAFFERT is the author of five previous novels: The Swan Gondola, The Coffins of Little Hope, Devils in the Sugar Shop, The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God, and The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters. He is a professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and he writes the column The Eccentricities of Gentlemen for the popular lifestyle magazine Enchanted Living.