A Conspiracy of Paper

A Conspiracy of Paper

The son of a wealthy stock trader, he lives estranged from his family - until he is asked to investigate his fathers 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.

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His services are engaged by one William Balfour who believes that his father's so-called self-murder was nothing of the sort and that, moreover, it was closely connected with the death of Weaver's own father, also suspected to be down to foul play. It emerges that forgeries of South Sea stocks have been created, a fact discovered by Weaver's father which is what had cost him his life.

In A Conspiracy of Paper, Weaver investigates a crime of the most personal sort: the mysterious death of his estranged father, a notorious stockjobber. To find the answers, Weaver must contend with a desperate prostitute who knows too much about his past, relatives who remind him of his alienation from the Jewish faith, and a cabal of powerful men in the world of British finance who have hidden their business dealings behind an intricate web of deception and violence. In Benjamin Weaver, author David Liss has created an irresistibly appealing protagonist, one who parlays his knowledge of the emerging stock market into a new kind of detective work. My Review: An honorable man sets out to right a wrong that he cares relatively little about. What makes Weaver a compelling character is his almost unbelievable level of alienation from every sector of London's social web.

I think I loved everything about this book - the time period, the main character, the history, the scandal, the mystery. Most of the time I felt Benjamin's (the main character) exasperation - nothing seemed to make sense, just a lot of seemingly unrelated information. Another thing I really enjoyed was the main character's task to learn the nuances of the financial market/economics.

That being said....I absolutely adored the protagonist in this book (former pugilist Benjamin Weaver) who was, of course, smart, brawny and witty which is how I love my men. I had never thought about how confusing it would be to be the first populace (in English speaking world) to try out holding wealth in a piece of paper and how precarious that would feel. Back to the way Liss writes...a quote from the "Historical Note" at the back: I have, in the language of this novel, tried to suggest the rhythms of eighteenth-century prose, although I have made many modifications in the interest of readability. This is one of the reasons why I love the way he writes an historical novel! Some of my favorite bits and pieces (the self-indulgent part of my review): Benjamin Weaver (Jewish) talking of his non-Jewish friend Elias: Elias complained that he should risk his foreskin every time he came to pay me a visit, but to the best of my knowledge, he died with it still attached. Like many men who thought themselves more blessed by the gods of wit than those of money, Elias would often sleep away whole days at a time that he might avoid the consciousness of his own hunger and poverty.

Weaver struggles to learn the intricacies of the "stock-jobber" system while confronted with a possibly-murdered father of his own, an estranged family, an interfering crime-boss and a beautiful young widow. The author provides great descriptions of the characters as well as a lot of humor at their expense. I enjoyed learning about 17th-century finance, stock-jobbers and the lawless streets of London. The author manages to present a considerable amount of information and a wide cast of characters without dragging along, boring the reader or becoming confusingly complex.

(Somewhere in the back of the book, after the story ends, the author mentions something about the differences between detective work of the time and the sort of reasoning we are used to today, which might play a role in that issue.) But anyway, if you're looking for a bit of a puzzle with a nice historical feel to it, then this book is perfectly fine--not extraordinary, but a decent read.

They are set in 18th century London and feature Benjamin Weaver, a Jewish former pugilist, thief-taker for hire. Weaver will be back in 2009 with The Devils Company, but hes featured in a new short story, The Double Dealer in the anthology Thriller , edited by James Patterson.