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The Black Coats (or Les Habits Noirs) is an all-powerful international brotherhood of criminals, a sort of 19th Century Mafia led by Colonel Bozzo-Corona, the godfather-like head of a criminal empire that dates back about a century. Their numbers seem to be vast and many, and despite the best efforts of various authorities and heroes, (such as Gregory Temple, one of literature's first detectives) the group manages to remain a fixture of the criminal underworld in Europe (and possibly abroad).
Paul Feval made a good number of novels over a period of thirty years, and as such the Black Coats have become quite entrenched in some corners of pulp novels, comic books, etc. adding more mystery, more danger and more members to it's ranks (such as Prof. Moriarty in some subsequent stories).