Set in Amsterdam, we meet a cast of characters, centred on wide boy wheeler dealer Lienzo, whose lives revolve around and reveal the mechanics and machinations of 17th century international trade.
However trade is not just in physical goods but also in what I’d always assumed to be a very 20th/21st century phenomenon, futures…
A less earnestly educational work than A Conspiracy of Paper, The Coffee Trader is a rollicking read with similar themes (crime, economy and social history), lots of detail on Jewish and financial communities (this time in Amsterdam and Portugal rather than London), and the underworld and underbelly of a successful business centre.
Amazon.co.uk link: The Coffee Trader – David Liss
Set in London the early 18th century, in the era when financial institutions and paper-based monetary systems were emerging in concept and in fact, this book is part murder-mystery, part-historical novel, with lots of detail on the jewish and financial communities in London, as well as its underworld of fist-fighters, gin joints, pick pockets and prostitutes.
It took me a while to get into it – in addition to the breadth of information provided by way of general backgrounds and settings, the main character is a bit of a mish-mash, and I found it hard to get a feel for him. At times it felt like David Liss was just desparate to fit in everything he’d discovered in doing his research.
That said, in the end, I wanted to know what happened enough to take the novel with me on my trip to India and Nepal! I still couldn’t articulate a snappy description of the book when asked by the Gulf Air stewardess though….
Buy it: Amazon link