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The Coral Thief: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 15, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. At once an engrossing historical, a love story about an unlikely passion and a novel of ideas that lucidly presents philosophical speculation about natural science, Stott's second novel (after Ghostwalk) is a powerful offering from an immensely talented writer. Narrated by young Englishman Daniel Connor, fresh out of medical school and traveling to a coveted research position in post-Napoleonic Paris in 1815, the novel begins with his realization that his scientific credentials, including a priceless coral specimen, have been stolen by the beautiful woman who sat next to him in the coach. She turns out to be Lucienne Bernard, a notorious thief being pursued by the chief of the Bureau de la Sûreté, Henri Jagot (based on a real figure and bound to make readers think of Javert). A cat and mouse game ensues, as Jagot tries to enlist Connor to trap Lucienne, but Connor falls deeply in love with the philosopher-thief and eventually makes a decision that might cost him his career, his freedom and his spiritual beliefs. Vividly atmospheric, propulsive and intricately plotted, this is a surefire page turner with literary heft and wide appeal. (Sept.)
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“A powerful offering from an immensely talented writer…Vividly atmospheric, propulsive, and intricately plotted, this is a surefire page turner with literary heft and wide appeal.”–Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Stott again skillfully combines an intriguing love story, complex scientific concepts, and a beautifully realized historical setting…Riveting on all fronts, from its suspenseful plot to its elegant presentation of evolutionary theory.”–Booklist, starred review
“Stott once again juxtaposes science with a tale of love, mystery and intrigue, setting this volatile mix against a backdrop of critical events in post-Revolutionary France… Skillfully embeds early 19th-century culture, history, and attitudes into a story that flows like the Seine and floods the senses.”–Kirkus Reviews, starred review
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Top Customer Reviews
One reviewer questions the attraction between Daniel and Lucienne but fails to appreciate his physical beauty ( he looked like a Carrevagio boy) and his fascinating intelligence (he asked intriguing questions.) The plot may be likened to the layers of an onion or the filaments of a growing spider's web. It ends with a tragic denouement but with hints that, perhaps, things were not what they seemed. This reader hopes so.
The swirl of ideas, gutters, thieves and cataloging scientists leaves you floating in a chaotic city. For me, the main character
And his counterpart were not nearly as developed nor was the basic plot. A mixed bag.
A companion book to The Coral Thief that might interest readers is Balzac's Old Goriot, which also deals with Paris during the Restoration. Both include the same historical character whose real name is Eugène Vidocq, a notorious criminal who was appointed to run the Brigade de la Surêté in 1811. Stott calls him Jagot and Balzac calls him Vautrin.
The Coral Thief is a very good read and also very informative of the intellectual upheavals of the 19th century.