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The Reincarnationist    by M. J. Rose order for
by M. J. Rose
Order:  USA  Can
Mira, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Do people pass through many lifetimes? Can memories from past lives intersect with or interfere with a current life? These are some of the questions that M. J. Rose asks in The Reincarnationist. The author of eight previous novels (most psychological or erotic thrillers), as well as a well received how to book that shows writers how to publish and promote their work online, Rose has an established following. Here, she explores a completely different theme; one that she admits has always fascinated her.

Reincarnation has been the basis of various eastern religions for thousands of years, but many Europeans and North Americans remain skeptical, particularly those who subscribe to Christian teachings. While Rose injects a good dose of creative license to some well established theories about reincarnation, she creates an intriguing storyline.

American photojournalist Josh Ryder barely survives a terrorist attack while on assignment in Rome. Days later he awakens from a coma and begins experiencing vivid memories that he knows are not his. At first, he and his doctors believe his condition is the result of the bomb blast. But as Josh's lapses, and his memories of pre-Christian Rome grow more frequent and more intimate, he becomes increasingly desperate for answers. Who is Julius? And why was it so imperative that he protect his Vestal Virgin lover? Josh's search takes him to the Phoenix Foundation, whose main agenda is documenting past life experiences.

Once Josh is given a clearer understanding of what's happening to him, he travels back to Italy to delve further into the memories that continue to assail him. His search leads to an archeological dig where he's bombarded anew with even more aggressive memories of Julius and the woman Josh now knows was named Sabina. But a darker element is intent on discovering the secrets buried within the perfectly preserved tomb, and in particular the existence of the pagan memory stones that some say would prove once and for all, that reincarnation is not a myth.

Rose incorporates fascinating historical and speculative research into her story; some of the latter raises interesting questions and theories worthy of contemplation and discussion. She also does a nice job balancing Josh's past lives with his present one as he desperately tries to make sense of what's happening to him. Ultimately, though, fine plotting and an intriguing premise do not compensate for wooden characterizations and an uninspiring narrative style. Still, The Reincarnationist is an entertaining and quick read that will leave you wondering whether death is truly the end.

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