If you haven’t been reading M.J. Rose’s Reincarnationist series, then THE HYPNOTIST, the third and latest in the mythos, will blow away any excuse you may have had for missing them. It is a memorable, engrossing read, a story that sets a new bar for Rose.
The series centers on The Phoenix Foundation, an organization well over a century old that is dedicated to the study of reincarnation. Dr. Malachai Samuels, the current director of the Foundation, is obsessed with the prospect of finding and acquiring “memory tools,” instruments that were apparently used by the ancients to access their past lives. Samuels is willing to commit any act, including murder, in order to possess these memory tools for his own use. FBI Agent Lucien Glass has stood in opposition to Samuels. Glass, a logical and rational thinker, has been dragged kicking and screaming toward the possibility of past life regression.
Over the course of the series, Rose has set up a subtle irony: Samuels’s past life experiences, if any, are totally lost to him, while Glass is haunted by the faint memories of his past incarnations and the women he has loved and lost in those lives. One does not have to be a believer in reincarnation to appreciate the series. While the idea of past lives is featured prominently as a story element, it is but one of many that propel multiple plotlines on fast-moving tracks toward an explosive convergence.
THE HYPNOTIST turns, in part, on a particular issue that has given rise to a controversy that receives minor publicity (at best) yet has the potential to be a major flashpoint: Who really owns a piece of artwork, whether it be a painting, a sculpture, or a carving? Is it the museum that has displayed it for decades, its country of origin, or the country of discovery? The art piece that is the subject of this issue is Hypnos, a piece of sculpture over 1,500 years old that is the object of contention between Iran and Greece, both of which lay claim to it, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the piece resides. Glass is drawn into the drama when a third party attempts to blackmail the museum into relinquishing the piece in exchange for a set of legendary art masterpieces that had been bequeathed to the museum but stolen. It is rumored that the sculpture may in fact provide a key to the memory tools, a factor that leads Glass to go undercover inside the Phoenix Foundation as a patient. While treated by hypnosis, Glass relives past lives in ancient Greece and the Persia of a little over 100 years ago.
As we are reminded time and again in THE HYPNOTIST, there are no coincidences in reincarnation, and the subjects of Glass’s past life regressions may well be connected with the current controversy surrounding the statue that he is charged with protecting. At the same time, Glass finds himself attracted to a young woman with an eerie connection to his long-diseased love --- a woman murdered almost two decades before and who continues to haunt his sleeping and waking moments. Following a trail that stretches from New York to Hollywood and to Paris, Glass attempts to uncover a diabolical plot to possess what may be the most important and dangerous tools ever known to mankind and to thwart it before it can occur.
THE HYPNOTIST has something for everyone: murder, suspense, history, romance, the supernatural, mystery and erotica. These elements are woven together so skillfully that the whole becomes something new and different. The plot, as one would expect, is complex, yet the prose gently tugs the reader along through the deeper parts of the work while moving things rapidly along in others. This is one of those rare books that puts the reader in the zone, where reality is hijacked by the printed page and the story that lays upon it. Rose, who never disappoints either her die-hard fans or the casual reader, has surpassed herself.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on April 19, 2011