Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Today: The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott

Paris, 1815. After Waterloo. A Scottish medical student makes his way to the city by mail coach. He is traveling there to study anatomy. In his care are “three rare fossils and the bone of a mammoth.”

During the journey he is joined by a magnetic woman. They speak at length and over many miles. Finally, she tires. “I can’t keep my eyes open any longer,” she tells him. I shall sleep. You should too.” And he does.

When he wakes an hour later, she is gone, “along with my travel bag and the small case containing the specimens. She had left me only my identity papers and my wallet, which had been placed under my arm as I slept.”

This is the set-up for The Coral Thief (Spiegel & Grau) a beautiful and oddly haunting novel by Rebecca Stott (Ghostwalk). Cut loose without his belongings but strangely intact, the young man sets out to find the woman and discovers instead a city on the verge of itself.

The Coral Thief
is quite wonderful. Part love story, part mystery, part steampunk-tinged discovery of the scientific. As PW said in their starred review, it is “a novel of ideas.” One finds it difficult to think of higher praise.



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