The Coral Thief
Young Daniel Connor travels on a career-expanding venture to the post-Napoleonic Paris of 1815. A medical student from Scotland, Daniel carries a letter of introduction to a French professor and precious coral specimens. He shares the coach with a child and mother, a beautiful woman who is interested in the emerging theories of evolution. After a brief nap, Daniel awakes to find his possessions stolen and blames the mysterious woman. Now his future is at stake and to seek out the thief he’s plunged into the Paris underground of brigands and murderers and runs afoul of the police chief who also searches for this woman, Lucienne, a notorious criminal. Daniel’s fate is complicated when he meets and falls in love with the alluring Lucienne. With the police chief threatening his freedom, Daniel must choose between saving the woman’s child in a risky jewel heist and betraying the very man he works for who can advance his medical career.
The story is fascinating in its exploration of evolutionary theories before the advent of Charles Darwin. The displays of bones and fossils at the Jardin des Plantes, where Daniel is employed, are richly detailed. The underground grottos, sleazy lives of thieves, and a Paris reeling from the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo are well done. Daniel too easily abandons his scruples and medical aspirations to “puppy-dog” after Lucienne, but this is a captivating read nonetheless.
304 (US), 224 (UK)