Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind

The reclusive German writer Patrick Süskind ( produced one internationally acclaimed bestseller. This was Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.  The novel examines what happens when one man’s indulgence in his greatest passion, his sense of smell, leads to murder. The summary is as follows. In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift — an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odours of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs.

But Grenouille’s genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and fresh-cut wood. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the ultimate ‘perfume’. This is a powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity. Read it without gagging if you can.

Pursue the olfactory moment on film. The grisly tale was brought to the screen in 2006 ( by Tom Tykwer with Ben Whishaw, Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman. Available on DVD at

272 pages in Penguin

First published 1985

ISBN 978-0141041155

Patrick Süskind

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