Heartbroken, Josh is making arrangements for the funeral of his wife, Marie, when the urge to retrieve her shadowbox from their summer cottage in northern Michigan is so strong, he can’t fight it. Upon entering the cottage, the distinctive scent of Marie’s perfume surprises him because ill health has kept her from visiting the lake for over a year. When the rustling of the curtain on the lake-side window lures him to look out, he sees a swimmer struggling to stay afloat. He is surprised when he paddles near enough to hear the swimmer humming the song that was playing when he and Marie first met. After the swimmer is safe in his boat, an odor causes him to demand, “Why are you wearing my wife’s perfume?”
This is the first of several encounters he has with Laura, an artist who lives on the other side of the lake. On each occasion, he is overwhelmed by the smell of his dead wife’s perfume. The mystery of why this happens is deepened when he smells the putrid stench of a corpse when he meets Bob, a handsome man who is courting Laura.
Essence is a fast-pace story that keeps you guessing until the end when the mystery is solved.