A historical scientific romance-thriller? Rebecca Stott has quite possibly invented the genre, and in her second novel, The Coral Thief, she elegantly walks that unlikely tightrope, unspooling a tale of intrigue among thieves and anatomists in post-Napoleonic Paris. On his journey from Scotland to France, Scottish medical student Daniel Connor shares a stagecoach with a beautiful older woman; when he wakes up, she’s gone — and so are his valuable coral samples. What follows is a vivid mix of love story and pre-Darwin evolutionary debate, unfurled at the edges of a Les Misérables-style underworld. Science may not seem sexy, but Stott comes close to making it so. A-

The Coral Thief
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