Synopses & Reviews
Luca Turin can distinguish the components of just about any smell, from the world's most refined perfumes to the air in a subway car on the Paris metro. A distinguished scientist, he once worked in an unrelated field, though he made a hobby of collecting fragrances. But when, as a lark, he published a collection of his reviews of the world's perfumes, the book hit the small, insular business of perfume makers like a thunderclap.
Who is this man Luca Turin, they demanded, and how does he know so much? The closed community of scent creation opened up to Luca Turin, and he discovered a fact that astonished him: no one in this world knew how smell worked. Billions and billions of dollars were spent creating scents in a manner amounting to glorified trial and error.
The solution to the mystery of every other human sense has led to the Nobel Prize, if not vast riches. Why, Luca Turin thought, should smell be any different? So he gave his life to this great puzzle. And in the end, incredibly, it would seem that he solved it. But when enormously powerful interests are threatened and great reputations are at stake, Luca Turin learned, nothing is quite what it seems.
"[W]hat happens when Luca Turin, a likable scientist who happens to possess an unusually sensitive nose, proposes a new theory of smell that promises to unravel the mystery once and for all? That's what readers find out in this often funny, picaresque expos of the closed world of whiffs, aromas and odors and the people who study them." Publishers Weekly
"A brilliant, feisty scientist at the center of a nasty, back-stabbing, utterly absorbing, cliff-hanging scramble for the Nobel Prize. The Emperor of Scent is a quirky, wonderful book." John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
"Burr does a fine job of turning both the science and the academic jockeying around...into a pulse-racing affair." New Yorker
"Chandler Burr...has transformed a chance meeting with a curious biophysicist named Luca Turin into an amusing and poetic adventure in science and art." The Washington Post
"What makes this so rewarding is Turin himself, a flawed, brilliant man whose character inspires and infuriates. Ultimately, the book becomes a morality tale about man's best and worst instincts, about the influence character has on human ingenuity." Chicago Tribune
"These sections alone are enough to send even a sinus-deadened reader to high-end perfume counters in search of the magic that has long held Turin in its grasp." Denver Post
"[T]he only disappointing thing...is that it doesn't come with a scratch-and-sniff page." Oregonian
The Emperor of Scent tells of the scientific maverick Luca Turin, a connoisseur and something of an aesthete who wrote a bestselling perfume guide and bandied about an outrageous new theory on the human sense of smell. Drawing on cutting-edge work in biology, chemistry, and physics, Turin used his obsession with perfume and his eerie gift for smell to turn the cloistered worlds of the smell business and science upside down, leading to a solution to the last great mystery of the senses: how the nose works.
About the Author
Chandler Burr is the author of A Separate Creation: The Search for the Biological Origins of Sexual Orientation. He has contributed to The Atlantic and has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications. He lives in New York.