A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Considering this mystery focuses on 18th-century London stock fraud, it succeeds far better than I might have expected. With a few murders to season the sauce, we're off to visit some unsavory characters, both high- and low-born, Christian and Jewish. The combination of the intricate financial dealings and Benjamin Weaver's more forceful investigative style create a balance and tension throughout the novel. Weaver is a retired pugilist (The Lion of Judah) and a former petty criminal. Liss writes in a style reminiscent of the time period without getting tedious about it. His detective, or "thief-taker" in the parlance of the day, knows that he has to try to understand the stockjobbing world he's been thrown into, but sometimes his frustration results in a violent beating or two. This method yields results.
Quite a few times I was reminded of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe character:
"He aimed directly at my jaw, and in my weariness I did not see it coming. Or rather, I did see it coming, but I could not quite remember what to do about a punch aimed full to my face."
"The barkeeper showed me nothing but terse indifference—something just shy of politeness. I made a note to myself to return to this place, for I liked its way of conducting business."
Benjamin Weaver is an outsider, but an intelligent one. His wry sense of humor and friendship with Elias Gordon were some of my favorite parts of the story.
I found this book when I was searching for historical fiction about the East India Company. The third novel in this series will find Benjamin Weaver entangled with the EIC. I'm looking forward to that.
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