Book Review: Papyrus By John Oehler

Guest Post by Jordan River.

Rika as Queen Tiye

Rika as Queen Tiye

When my time is come, you will bury me in a bath of restorative oils. It will be done while the breath of life is still in me.
– Queen Tiye’s burial instructions

Queen Tiye

Queen Tiye

John Oehler, the author of the perfume thriller Aphrodesia has released his second book, Papyrus: A Thriller.

In Papyrus, Queen Tiye, the mother of Tutankhamun, journeys up the Nile to be buried alive in a bath of restorative oils. Later in the book there is a scene in which the modern-day explorers smell these oils.

Immersed in Papyrus I enjoyed visiting places that I have never been like Sudan, Eritrea and Egypt.

Chapter 1 - The mountains of Eritrea

Chapter 1 – The mountains of Eritrea

The female protagonist, Rika, is a freedom fighter turned scholar from Eritrea who discovers a written-over papyrus in the secured study area of the Cairo Museum. The hieroglyphs appear to reveal the whereabouts of the lost tomb of Queen Tiye. Various agendas by other characters provide tension for the race to locate the tomb which is not in Egypt.

The Egyptian Museum is called The Cairo Museum in Papyrus.

The Egyptian Museum is called The Cairo Museum in Papyrus.

The novel also weaves in and out of ancient and modern Egypt as we follow the twilight years of Queen Tiye and the changes in Egyptian spiritual and cultural beliefs.

Chapter X  takes place here

Chapter 8 takes place here

There is love, there is action, there is war and peace and a high octane plane chase above airspace crossing several international borders. And the obligatory John Oehler jail scene (last time Yemen, this time Egypt). There are also great descriptions including scent descriptors of various times and places.

She also smelled his aftershave. Six years in Europe had accustomed her to the idea of male fragrances and taught her they reflect personality. To her, his leathery scent conveyed understated masculinity. A distraction she didn’t need.
– Rika

Her window, opened just a centimeter, admitted the flinty smell of baked earth

Rika replaced the mirror and removed that tray. Beneath it she found alabaster jars with the desiccated remains of unguents and creams, a chalcedony dish of black kohl for darkening the eyelids, calcite perfume phials that still smelled of juniper, cinnamon, and civet.

She pressed her nose to the soft curls and inhaled a faint, tallow scent of soap made from animal fat.

He liked the fragrance of jasmine that trailed after her.

Chests of sandalwood and cedar infused the air with heavenly fragrance.

He grunted, then shuffled past her, clutching a sheaf of papers and leaving behind an odor of musty wool.

His gray suit, purchased a month ago and proudly worn every day since, wafted the underarm odor of boiled cabbage.

The driver used one of those wood-beaded seat covers. He also chain-smoked Gauloises cigarettes, whose rank odor took her back to cafes near the Sorbonne

The man’s gray suit had dark crescents under the arms and wafted an odor like day-old fish.

There is an interview with John Oehler over at The Fragrant Man about Smell in Writing.

Queen Tiye and Amanhotep III and two of their daughters

Queen Tiye and Amenhotep III

The ending is unexpected; John Oehler could teach a course in creative writing. I took the day off work to read this but wish I had made it last over a weekend or a week. Was it a thriller? Yes.

There are several perfumes that include papyrus and calamus (the papyrus reed used for writing) as an ingredient. Have you tried any of these?


Papyrus has a page on Facebook and is available at Amazon.

Paperback $US12.79
Kindle e-book $US 2.99

Further Reading
The Origin of Papyrus – Author’s notes
John Oehler at The Fragrant Man – Smell in Writing
Aphrodesia – Perfume Thriller – Book review on Olfactoria’s Travels
John Oehler – Author interview
John Oehler – The Smell of Space
John Oehler – Fragrant Reading List

Jordan River The Fragrant Man

Jordan River
The Fragrant Man


About Olfactoria

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25 Responses to Book Review: Papyrus By John Oehler

  1. Pingback: Smell in Writing – Interview with John Oehler | The Fragrant Man

  2. Annina says:

    Oh this is on my reading list – just read Aphrodisia! Off to Amazon now…

  3. shellyw says:

    His last one was a fun weekend read. I just ordered this one. Thanks for the review.

  4. CC ... says:

    Thank you for the review … have put it on mu list.

  5. Marie says:

    Thank you for the review! I have always been fascinated by the Ancient Egypt and will try to find the book for a quick test read in a bookstore.
    Still, it doesn’t sound as if the author has built his story on historical facts: Queen Tiye was not the mother of Tutankhamun. Her son (Echnaton) was Tutankhamun’s father, what makes her his grandmother. Also, her tomb was discovered in 2010 – in Egypt… 😉

    • Jordan River says:

      Ah, tis fiction about the tomb. Interesting about Echnaton though. Thank you for the information. Ancient genealogies are sometimes like hieroglyphs to me. Did you read Taita by Wilbur Smith?

  6. Tara says:

    Thanks for bringing this book to my attention Jordan. I love reading about places and times I know little about. You can be entertained and expand your knowledge at the same time.

    Oils also have a special place in my heart because they were my route to perfume.

    • Jordan River says:

      I am sure your oils are beautiful Tara. Will you post about them or did I miss that? Enfleurage is a good company for oils and resins as I am sure you know. I love Mandy Aftel’s Ancient Resins. Strong pungent spikenard takes my breath away but I would not wear it anywhere. Aged oud oil is where I am at. Having said that I just received a bottle of the oil from Mysore sandalwood stock grown in North Australia. I carry it everywhere for a drop or two on the skin throughout the day. Big, creamy and so beautiful. That is a scent that almost disappeared from the world. Happy reading to you Tara.

  7. hajusuuri says:

    At least the book cover on this one is not creepy like Aphrodesia’s! This sounds interesting. Thanks for reviewing it.

  8. Vanessa says:

    We have a lot to thank the Egyptians for in terms of their pioneering of perfume use, and this book sounds like a thrilling and fragrant yomp. I have tried a perfume called ‘Calamus’ by CdG and PG Papyrus de Ciane, which was not my thing at all, though the papyrus may not have been to blame! At a seminar with Roja Dove, he whipped out some khypi, though I can’t recall if he had had someone make it up to an ancient recipe or found it in a pyramid…;-)

    • Jordan River says:

      I have only read about Khypi. That would be a treat to smell. Sandrine Videault (Manoumalia, Ambre Indien, Violeta, Magnolia Grandiflora) recreated Khypi for an exhibition at The Cairo Museum. Roja probably made the khypi himself or maybe it was actually ancient?
      Thank you for sharing your Papyrus ‘fumes.
      The papyrus ones that I know of are Bvlgari Soir Pour Homme, Gucci pour Homme, Cereus No.4 by Cereus, Bois De Filao by Comptoir Sud Pacifique which were all marketed to men.
      Calamus perfumes seem to be more unisex in terms of marketing with: Candour by Humiecki & Graef, Bois d’Ombrie (The Woods of Umbria) and 24-09-11 from the Gli Invisibile range by Hilde Soliani.
      Have a great day / night ahead Vanessa.

  9. Pingback: Book Giveaway – Win One Of Three Kindle Copies of John Oehler’s Papyrus | Olfactoria's Travels

  10. Melinda says:

    Ok, I want to read this!

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