99. A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss
Publication: Ballantine Books (January 30, 2001), Paperback, 480pp / ISBN 0804119120
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Read: April 13-15, 2010
Summary from Amazon:
Benjamin Weaver, a Jew and an ex-boxer, is an outsider in eighteenth-century London, tracking down debtors and felons for aristocratic clients. The son of a wealthy stock trader, he lives estranged from his family–until he is asked to investigate his father’s sudden death. Thus Weaver descends into the deceptive world of the English stock jobbers, gliding between coffee houses and gaming houses, drawing rooms and bordellos. The more Weaver uncovers, the darker the truth becomes, until he realizes that he is following too closely in his father’s footsteps–and they just might lead him to his own grave. An enthralling historical thriller, A Conspiracy of Paper will leave readers wondering just how much has changed in the stock market in the last three hundred years…
I find a lot of good books wandering aimlessly around the library, and this one’s one of them! I had no idea who David Liss was or even really what this book was about– I only read the first sentence of the summary, and went from there. I think I’m only going to read the first sentence of every summary from now on, because I can’t help but think that I enjoy books a little bit more when I don’t know anything about them except maybe the genre and the title. Like, I’m not expecting things, you know? Ha.
Anyway, though A Conspiracy of Paper wasn’t as exciting as I’d thought it’d be, it was, indeed, very enthralling, and I pretty much zoomed through the better part of it before I realized just how unexciting it was. But is unexciting all that bad? There are some fights in it, after all, though they aren’t the focus of the story. And I actually kind of like that Benjamin didn’t resort to violence as much as he could have– he didn’t fall into the stereotype of a “man who talks with his fists.” Plus, however unexciting the book is, I don’t think anyone could dispute that the last fifty pages are pretty freakin’ exciting, what with all the running around, and the sword fights, and the fist fights, and the TWISTS. Yeah.
So despite being for the most part unexciting A Conspiracy of Paper was still very fun to read, and though I didn’t entirely understand the bit about how stocks worked (I tended to skim over the explanations) I really like Benjamin, both as just a regular person and as an early sort of detective. There are at least two other books by David Liss starring Benjamin and I definitely want to read them, even if 18th century England makes me want to simultaneously run away and tear my hair out. The horrible conditions in the jails alone made me want to cry– though I should mention that while Mr Liss’ descriptions of gruesome things are straightforward they aren’t over-the-top disgusting, like, I don’t know, some of Clive Barker’s books are.
Anyway, in conclusion: excellent book, totally deserves the Edgar Award it got for best first book, can’t wait to read the others, check it out if you like historical fiction and/or detective stories.
Other reviews: Prettier Than Napoleon