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A Conspiracy of Paper: A Novel
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About the Author

David Liss was born in 1966 and grew up in south Florida. He is currently a doctoral candidate in the English department at Columbia University, where he is completing his dissertation on how the mid-eighteenth-century novel reflects and shapes the emergence of the modern idea of personal finance. He has given numerous conference papers on his research and has also published on Henry James. He has received several awards for his work, including the Columbia President's Fellowship, an A. W. Mellon Research Fellowship, and the Whiting Dissertation Fellowship. He holds an M.A. from Georgia State University and a B.S. from Syracuse University. Liss lives in New York City with his wife and can be reached via his Web site, www.davidliss.com

Reviews

London in 1719 is full of prostitutes and bankers, thieves and stock-jobbers who rub shoulders in the convoluted alleys and coffee houses around the Royal Exchange. Then and there, it's not impossible that a merchant suffering reverses kills himself or that a day later a Jewish stock-jobber is run down by a carriage. However, when the merchant's son asks the stock-jobber's son, Benjamin Weaver, to look into both deaths, these fatalities begin to look related and deliberate. As Weaver investigates his father's death, he finds himself deeply embroiled in the bitter political and economic wrangle between the Bank of England and the South Sea Company and the thieves, merchants, stock-jobbers, noblemen, and financiers who all have myriad competing claims. With the exception of some confusing flashbacks that slow the pace, first novelist Liss does a superb job of bringing to life 18th-century London and illuminating the issues of the day--e.g., tension between Christian and Jew--for a modern audience. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/99.]--Cynthia Johnson, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, MA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"Tremendously smart, assured, and entertaining . . . An intricate mystery, a colorful rogues' gallery and, improbably, a history lesson on the birth of the stock market."
--Newsweek "THE PLOT DRAWS YOU IN FROM PAGE TO PAGE. . . . An evocation of English history that you can happily get lost in for days."
--CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT
The New York Times "REMARKABLE . . . ENGAGING . . . The first stock market crash in the English-speaking world is about to burst, and a whole way of life is about to burst with it."
--The New York Times Book Review "A VORTEX OF STOCK FRAUD AND MURDER . . . [A] GENRE-STRETCHING FIRST NOVEL."
--Time "HIGHLY ENTERTAINING . . . FIENDISHLY INTRICATE . . . Compares favorably with An Instance of the Fingerpost."
--Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "A tale of eighteenth-century finance, murder, and religion that is a remarkable debut and a thoroughly satisfying novel."
--ARTHUR GOLDEN
Author of Memoirs of a Geisha "An old-fashioned detective story, with London's teeming streets and taverns as its backdrop. . . . An artfully constructed potboiler: the sort of thing that would make a good 'Mystery!' series on PBS."
--The New Yorker "A Conspiracy of Paper is exciting, intelligent, and witty--a rare combination in historical novels. It is rich in intriguing detail and peopled with fascinating characters. Recommended enthusiastically."
--JOHN JAKES
Author of American Dreams "A well-researched and highly entertaining historical mystery . . . [A] tale of financial skullduggery and multiple murder . . . Conveyed in vivid extended scenes characterized by crisp dialogue and a keen sense of the ways in which character reveals itself . . . The very model of a modern historical mystery."
--Kirkus Reviews
(starred review) "Terrific . . . Set in a vividly realized eighteenth-century London . . . Although a financial boom fueled by a new economy or a personal struggle with ethnic identity may seem awfully contemporary, Liss keeps us firmly in another time. . . . The book crackles with period detail, yet the immense research never shows. . . . One can only hope that Liss isn't finished with Benjamin Weaver."
--Booklist

This remarkably accomplished first novel, by a young man still completing his doctoral dissertation at Columbia, has a great deal going on. It is at once a penetrating study of the beginnings of stock speculation and the retreat from a mineral-based currency in early 18th-century London, a sympathetic look at the life of a Jew in that time and place and a vision of the struggle between the Bank of England and the upstart South Sea Company to become the repository of the nation's fiscal faith. If all that sounds daunting, it is above all a headlong adventure yarn full of dastardly villains, brawls, wenches and as commanding a hero as has graced a novel in some time. He is Benjamin Weaver, a Jewish former boxer who had once abandoned his family, and virtually his faith, too, for a life on the fringes of criminal society as a kind of freelance bailiff who brings debtors to book for their creditors. When his uncherished father dies suddenly, however, and he has reason to suspect the apparent accident was actually murder, he plunges himself into a hunt for those responsible, and in the process changes his life. With his native cunning and his brawling skills, he soon finds himself deeply embroiled with the villainous Jonathan Wild, thief-taker par excellence, who has institutionalized criminal mayhem. He also becomes the pawn of some powerful financial giants lurking in the shadows (much like the corporate villains in contemporary thrillers), comes to suspect his glamorous cousin Miriam of actions unbecoming a lady and employs the wiles of his philosophical Scottish friend Elias to decode the mysterious ways of finance and the laws of probability. The period detail is authentic but never obtrusive; the dialogue is a marvel of courtly locution masking murderous bluntness; and the plot, though devious in the extreme, never becomes opaque. It seems clear that Weaver is being set up as a series hero, which can only be good news for lovers of the best in dashing historical fiction. Agent, Liz Darhansoff. (Feb.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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