This is actually the first book by thriller writer MJ Rose that I have read, though she has written a lot of bestsellers with fantastic names like The Venus Fix, and many readers are familiar with her. I am not generally into the “thriller” genre, but I am highly curious about the phenomena known as reincarnation and needed a fictional diversion from books I have been reading for research, etc. I will admit I was skeptical when I began, especially as one review I saw compared this story with The DaVinci Code, but at some point I simply could not put the book down. I devoured it yesterday while my family functioned around me and now I am here to tell you, this is a darn-good story. If you read “D-V Code” and loved it, you should read this and compare the quality of writing. If you read “D-V Code” and could not figure out why the literary world cared, you may appreciate The Reincarnationist simply for the skill Rose displays as a writer. While there are similarities, which need not be revealed, the differences are what makes this novel exciting. This isn’t the retelling of an old legend, it’s entirely her story.
The basic premise is relatively simple, yet full of complexities as all good mysteries are. Protagonist Josh Ryder is a photojournalist who begins having glimpses of his past lives which lead him to a modern mystery/crime. He is battling his own doubts about reincarnation and his sanity, but when modern people start coming forth with similar stories, and others are murdered around him he is forced to face the past. As we know, those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it, eh?
His story has roots in 4th century Rome as well as the nineteenth century NY society. Rose delves into the history of pagan Rome and the Vestal Virgins as well as art, archaeology and reincarnation itself. Most of her story is entirely fictional, but I believe a good story still offers readers something to learn about the real world as Rose has done here. Not all of the characters are that endearing, and there are some obvious devices but the fascinating subject of reincarnation is treated better than in most books. It’s not a fantasy novel; this is not just about time-travel. As some characters point out, there are documented cases and eons of belief behind the topic. The author also treads into the controversial issues within certain world-dominating religions with a slightly lighter hand than some other authors have. Even if you are opposed to the idea, she does present both points of view (even as one of the protagonist’s major internal conflicts) and the research group The Phoenix Foundation is her own creation, so there won’t be any nasty news reports and international scandals. Though that stuff makes for good P.R.