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A Spectacle of Corruption
by David Liss
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 037576089X, Paperback)"I sentence you, Mr. Weaver, to be hanged for the most horrible crime of murder." Hearing that judicial decree, Benjamin Weaver--former pugilist, current "thief-taker," and future master of disguise--begins one of the sorriest days of his life. And things will only get worse, as David Liss reveals in A Spectacle of Corruption, his exuberant novel of 18th-century political chicanery. Tossed into London’s notorious Newgate Prison, Weaver employs his considerable energy and guile (plus tools slipped to him by a mysterious admirer at his trial) to escape--naked--into the city's filthy streets. But then, he risks recapture by trying to figure out who framed him for slaying labor agitator Walter Yate, and why.
How all of this trouble derived from Weaver's pursuit of the culprit behind a priest’s recent spate of hate mail propels the balance of this yarn--the sequel to Liss's Edgar Award-winning debut novel, A Conspiracy of Paper. It also pushes the Jewish "ruffian-for-hire" into the jeopardous midst of a British power struggle that pits supporters of King George I against the Jacobites, who favor the return of his dethroned Catholic rival, James II. Assisted by his puckish surgeon friend Elias Gordon, Weaver assumes the role of a prosperous plantation owner from Jamaica and penetrates the upper echelons of 1722 London society, hoping to gather information he can use against Dennis Dogmill, a "vicious and unpredictable" tobacco man who may actually have ordained Yate's killing. As Weaver ranges through London's fetid pubs and fancy theaters, and attracts the amorous attention of Dogmill's surprisingly shrewd sister, he also finds himself in the uncomfortable position of backing Griffin Melbury, a Tory candidate for the House of Commons--and the man who stole away his beloved Miriam Lienzo.
Liss has a keen eye for entertaining details of Georgian life, from that period’s exotic diction ("The men in your gang are nothing but cutpurses and mollies and buggerantos") to its most reprehensible pastimes, including "goose pulling"--about which the less said, the better. And though some readers may bog down in the explained distinctions between Whigs and Tories, the author finds considerable humor in that political rivalry and the parties' get-out-the-vote efforts. Once you accept the rather dubious notion that fugitive Weaver could hide in plain sight, A Spectacle of Corruption can be appreciated as the lusty thriller Liss clearly intended it to be. --J. Kingston Pierce
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:38 -0400)
"Moments after his conviction for a murder he did not commit, at a trial presided over by a judge determined to find him guilty, Benjamin Weaver is accosted by a stranger who cunningly slips a lockpick and a file into his hands. In an instant he understands two things: Someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to see him condemned to hang - and another equally mysterious agent is determined to see him free." "After a daring escape from eighteenth-century London's most notorious prison, Weaver must face another challenge: how to prove himself innocent of a crime when the corrupt courts have already shown they want only to see him hang. To discover the truth and clear his name, he will have to understand the motivations behind a secret scheme to extort a priest, uncover double-dealings in the unrest among London's dockworkers, and expose the conspiracy that links the plot against him to the looming national election - an election with the potential to spark a revolution and topple the monarchy." "Unable to show his face in public, Weaver pursues his inquiry in the guise of a wealthy merchant who seeks to involve himself in the political scene. But he soon finds that the world of polite society and politics is filled with schemers and plotters, men who pursue riches and power - and those who seek to return the son of the deposed king to the throne. Desperately navigating a labyrinth of politicians, crime lords, assassins, and spies, Weaver learns that, in an election year, little is what it seems and the truth comes at a staggeringly high cost."--BOOK JACKET.
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