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Publisher's Summary

A Los Angels Times top 10 book of the summer

A Gentleman in Moscow meets Moulin Rouge in this stylish, sexy pause resister set in Paris on the eve of World War II, where Clementine, a queer American expat 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 72-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 20th-century Paris and a passionate love letter to the power of beauty and community in the face of insidious hate.

©2021 Timothy Schaffert (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Did someone say 'queer espionage'? Clementine is one of the best protagonists of the summer.... Other authors have had clever takes on World War II spy novels, but none has created a voice like Clem’s, at once a true artist and a woman spinning a tale to save her life." (Los Angeles Times)

"A hint of Moulin Rouge, a whiff of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, a little spritz of Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief...The Perfume Thief is a pulse-pounding thriller and a sensuous experience you’ll want to savor." (Oprah Daily

Entrancing.... The writing is exquisite, each well-chosen word bringing to elegant life a Paris that no longer exists.... Clementine and her gorgeous suits, her exotic past, her many and varied lovers, are metaphors for not only the queer society in which she moves, but for the many incarnations of the city of Paris herself. The descriptions of perfumes and their creation are so vivid I sometimes thought I actually discerned those scents on the air. Highly recommended!” (Historical Novels Review

What listeners say about The Perfume Thief

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  • Kate
  • 25-08-2021

Best book….

Of the year. The story is incredible, as is the writing and the narration. I was sorry when it ended and brought me back to reality.

1 person found this helpful

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  • SuSam J.
  • 16-10-2021

Run away

What a waste of time. The actor was terrible, super annoying style. The plot and characters were predictable and uninteresting.

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  • Bill W
  • 09-10-2021

Boring

Poorly conceived, written and performed. Don’t waste your money or credits. After several chapters I tossed it.

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  • Susannah
  • 06-09-2021

Entertaining Characters

Interesting listen surrounding a fictional first-person account WWII Parisian gay/bisexual American woman. I enjoyed the setting and the characters, especially the Josephine Baker-type. It got off to a strong start due to the narrator's sultry Marlene Dietrich reminiscent reading. The narrator was very good at handling the many accents, and with a lesser narrator, I think I might've given up sooner on the book. The reason for my hesitancy to recommend this? I felt the book needed a good strong handed editor to slash the extraneous material. I felt the plot line was weak; and the climax of the story not satisfying. But, the ambiance and the dialogue was very good; again, dealt with deftly by the narrator.

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