The Coral Thief
By Rebecca Stott
Spiegal & Grau
Daniel Connor, a young medical student from Edinburgh, is on his way to Paris to study at the Jardin de Plantes. During his journey, he meets a mysterious and beautiful woman — Lucienne Bernard — and while he contemplates her and her strange theories, she steals his letters of introduction, coral specimens, and mammoth fossils. He reports the theft of the artifacts to the police and somehow finds himself wrapped up in a mystery full of evolutionary theories, coral, and odd bits about Napoleon.
I didn’t care for Daniel. He was sexist and ignorant and I found I needed to remind myself that this was normal for the time period (1815), at least the sexist part. The main problem I had with him was that he was always complaining. Once he began to mature, he became easier to like but not by much. Lucienne is a very interesting characters though. An evolutionary philosopher and thief, she is always hiding something and is never afraid to step out of line and state sometimes the obvious and sometimes the most arcane of thoughts, especially for a woman at the time. She’s refreshing as far as the story line goes here.
Napoleon plays an odd role and one that never fits into the story for me. The short diary entries add nothing and left more questions (mostly why they were there in the first place) than answers. The vague connection does nothing for the story.
The mystery/thriller sort of ending ramps up quickly and is fairly exciting compared to the rest of the book. I do wish there had been more of that and a little more about the fossils, theories, and why Lucienne felt the need to steal them because I found that part of the story interesting but overall it sort of fell flat for me.