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The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott 

Book Description (see Amazon or Librarything for customer reviews etc):

A young scientist becomes involved with a mysterious band of antiquities robbers in the heady atmosphere of nineteenth-century Paris. It's a hot August night in 1815, a few weeks after Napoleon's surrender to the Allied Forces at Waterloo. Daniel Connor, a brilliant and ambitious student from Edinburgh Medical School, is travelling to Paris by mail coach carrying rare historical specimens and letters of introduction to the illustrious Professor Cuvier at the Jardin des Plantes, a botanical and zoological garden on the banks of the Seine. In the coach he encounters a strikingly tall dark-haired woman with heretical ideas about transmutation and the origins of life. When Daniel wakes at dawn, she has disappeared, taking his precious gifts with her. Arriving in Paris, Daniel makes friends with a fellow medical student, Fin. Gradually Paris works its spell on Daniel so that he begins to feel that he is metamorphosing into someone he no longer recognises. He discovers that the mysterious ... read more

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