Review

The Memorist

by M. J. Rose

THE MEMORIST is arguably M.J. Rose’s best novel to date,
no mean feat considering her already impressive body of work. This
sequel to 2007’s THE REINCARNATIONIST reintroduces readers to
the Phoenix Foundation, a somewhat shadowy organization devoted to
helping emotionally disturbed children whose difficulties appear to
stem from their repressed memories of past lives. Malachai Samuels,
its enigmatic figurehead, is a very self-possessed and quietly
driven man whose devotion to the Foundation’s patients is
unquestionable yet seems to have a personal agenda of his own:
acquiring what are known as the memory tools, a varied collection
of objects that reputedly have the power to unlock and reveal
memories of the past lives of individuals.

The focal point of THE MEMORIST is music, specifically that of
Ludwig van Beethoven. At the time of his death, he was reputed to
have an ancient flute on which was inscribed a melody that, when
played, would awaken memories of past lives in the listener. Meer
Logan, a former patient of Samuels, has been haunted since her
early childhood by memories of another life that are always
accompanied by the faint strains of hauntingly familiar music.
Logan’s father, a dealer in antiquities in Vienna, discovers
a heretofore unknown letter appearing to have been written by
Beethoven that references the flute.

For reasons both similar and different, Logan and Samuels travel
to Vienna hoping to trace the instrument. Logan longs to discover
who she once was and lay her demons to rest. For Samuels, the flute
may well be one of the reputed memory tools that he can utilize in
the treatment of the patients of the Phoenix Foundation. Arriving
in Vienna, Logan meets Sebastian Otto, a friend of her
father’s whose young son is having difficulties similar to
those that Logan herself experienced as a child. Otto is convinced
that the flute will provide a cure for his boy, helping him to
overcome the catatonic symptoms that afflict him to the extent that
he is all but bedridden.

Yet there are others who are interested in obtaining the flute
for their own purposes. A journalist named David Yalom has come to
Vienna as well. Ostensibly covering the four-day ISTA conference
and the concluding performance by the Vienna Philharmonic
Orchestra, Yalom has a terrible and frightening demonstration
planned to bring to the world’s attention the horror that
terrorist acts can visit upon their victims. Events speed toward a
terrifying and cataclysmic conclusion, but not from the source the
reader might expect, at least not directly. M.J. Rose neither
misdirects nor fashions a sleight-of-hand in THE MEMORIST, but
rather lets consequences of actions unintended by their actors
follow their natural course. The result is an ending that is
unexpected, oddly satisfying and possibly a springboard for things
to come.

While THE MEMORIST is primarily Meer Logan’s show --- both in
her present and past lives --- there are enough interesting
characters here to launch at least one additional series and keep
the Phoenix Foundation series going for as long as the
author cares to write it. Logan --- not to mention her potential
love interest --- is much too interesting a character to limit to
one novel, and at least one of her past lives could easily be the
focus for additional storylines in the future. THE MEMORIST,
however, provides optimal satisfaction all by itself.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 7, 2011

The Memorist
by M. J. Rose

  • Publication Date: November 1, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Mira
  • ISBN-10: 0778325849
  • ISBN-13: 9780778325840