This is a fascinating novel that focuses on viewing the world through one's nose. Where novels usually focus on what things look like, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, the protagonist, has an unusually sharp sense of smell, and so experiences the world in this way. Suskind brings to life 18th century Paris through how it smells. I found this totally absorbing as well as (sometimes gruesomely) entertaining.
It's a dark novel, to say the least, but the fleshiness of it is what gives it its spark. We get into the mind of a killer and we know what makes him tick. Somehow the murders don't seem as important, to us the readers, as this smell that is at the forefront of Grenouille's quest.
Suskind shows us how this world is to an outsider, and Grenouille is an outsider in every sense of the word. This is what makes him so good at what he does. How can a human with no smell fit in with humanity? How can one cling to one's humaneness with that sense ever pervading your nostrils?
This is also a novel about power, in its different forms, and how far we will go to get it.