The Memorist

Written by M.J. Rose
Review by Sarah Johnson

Reincarnation themes are common in time-slip novels, yet The Memorist brings a new idea to the table: binaural tones, musical notes with the power to affect brain waves and, perhaps, unlock past-life memories.

In the present, celebrated Israeli journalist David Yalom plots an explosive finale to the Vienna Philharmonic’s gala performance at an international security conference—his twisted revenge for the failure of hired security to protect his wife and family from a terrorist bomb. While he maneuvers through Roman catacombs located meters below the concert hall, Meer Logan arrives in Vienna in search of a cure to the fearful anxiety that has plagued her since childhood. Her father, Judaica expert Jeremy Logan, always believed repressed past-life memories were the cause of Meer’s trauma, though Meer herself remains unconvinced. Then a letter hidden in an antique gaming box sets them on a path to find an ancient bone flute linked to Beethoven and his purported “immortal beloved,” Antonie Brentano. As Meer slowly gleans clues to the hiding place of this “memory tool” via flashbacks to a previous life in 1814 Vienna, a fast-paced quest begins, involving players from Meer and Jeremy to FBI agents, international security experts, and members of a centuries-old secret society. Meer’s fate depends on her uncanny ability to see through the eyes of a 19th-century woman desperate, in her own time, to rescue her beloved husband.

With multiple sets of characters and plot strands, the novel takes a while to settle in, but once it does, I turned the pages in haste, fascinated by the subject and swept along for the unpredictable ride. More original in concept than Rose’s earlier The Reincarnationist, this ambitious thriller successfully links past and present on multiple levels. An exciting, dramatically paced, intellectually satisfying read from an author who refuses to play it safe.