The Coral Thief - Rebecca Stott
(Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Paris 1815. A city in turmoil following the defeat of Napoleon, a city where lowlife scum meets high society, and a city where every conceivable historical novel cliché gets thrown at the wall to see which particularly dreadful bits stick. The Coral Thief is rife with stock characters (young scientific ingénue, enigmatic and glamorous thief, corrupt and nasty chief of police) who populate a horribly contrived plot which completely fails to marry love story, thriller and scientific ideas.
The dialogue is often laughably bad, full of clumsy exposition or just plain old clunky writing, while character motivations stretch credulity past breaking point. As we reach the unconvincing climax (a diamond heist, no less) it’s hard not to chuck the damn book out the window. The fact that this was written by someone who’s apparently a professor of creative writing on the well-regarded University of East Anglia course is, frankly, shocking.