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A Conspiracy of Paper: A Novel (Ballantine…

A Conspiracy of Paper: A Novel (Ballantine Reader's Circle) (edition 2001)

by David Liss

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Title:A Conspiracy of Paper: A Novel (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
Authors:David Liss
Info:Ballantine Books (2001), Edition: 2nd, Paperback, 480 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:historical fiction

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A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss

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Rating: 3.9* of five

The Publisher Says: Benjamin Weaver is an outsider in eighteenth-century London: a Jew among Christians; a ruffian among aristocrats; a retired pugilist who, hired by London's gentry, travels through the criminal underworld in pursuit of debtors and thieves.

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. Relying on brains and brawn, Weaver uncovers the beginnings of a strange new economic order based on stock speculation--a way of life that poses great risk for investors but real danger for Weaver and his family.

In the tradition of The Alienist and written with scholarly attention to period detail, A Conspiracy of Paper is one of the wittiest and most suspenseful historical novels in recent memory, as well as a perceptive and beguiling depiction of the origin of today's financial markets. 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. His quest leads him to wrongs he didn't know were possible, and that he cares a lot about righting. He can't fix it...nobody could then, and nobody can now...because it's all to do with human greed and viciousness.

David Liss came to my attention with this top-notch thriller. He takes the abstruse and impersonal concept put forth by (then-newly minted) economic scientists called "economist"s Hand of the Market, squeezes that bastard tight, and shakes out of it the economists' worst nightmare: The human cost of their depersonalized, accountability-free rent-reaping mills.

What makes Weaver a compelling character is his almost unbelievable level of alienation from every sector of London's social web. A Jew estranged from his family by disobedience. A Jew in the Christian London that persecutes Catholics, allegedly fellow Christians. An educated man who fought with his fists for money. An absolute outsider.

It makes for the best fictional characters, this does, and even better for a sleuth in a mystery. He has access to but not membership in many groups. He can ask questions because he's Different, and he can't be bought off by assimilation--too far outside the pale of anyone's social-group tolerance--nor can he be threatened by exclusion (from what that he isn't excluded from already?).

A successful thriller combines plausible action in service of believable stakes by a character with a definite and powerful moral compass. Delivered here in trumps. It's a pleasure to read a book that makes it clear that markets, all markets always and everywhere, must be controlled, damped down, and regulated to prevent the vile and contemptible from abusing the greedy and gullible. It is, in the end, the rest of us who pay the bill. It was ever thus. It will ever be thus, world without end.

Until we're no longer human beings, that is.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. ( )
3 vote richardderus | Aug 8, 2014 |
An excellent historical novel that provides a lively story while educating the reader on 1720 London stratification of society, treatment of the Jewish population, and the emergence of exchange stock trading. ( )
  pking36330 | Feb 6, 2014 |
I loved David Liss' sense of place and time, but got a little bored with the main character never figuring anything out for himself. Pretty much every major breakthrough in the case was handed to him by someone else. It may have been psychologically and cognitively historically accurate, but it didn't make him a very compelling narrative presence. Loved all the history about the stock market and spent a couple happy hours noodling around the internet learning more, so there you go. ( )
  MelissaZD | Jan 1, 2014 |
I had mixed feelings about this novel. I was very interested in the treatment of Jews in England at the period but a bit overwhelmed with all the stock jobber jibber jabber. As a mystery, it was quite entertaining as I did not solve it until at least half way through, but I would not run right out and buy another David Liss. ( )
  carissa58 | Sep 6, 2013 |
Well, I would have failed miserably (but gladly) if I had wished to start 2013 with a more drier read!

This book held promise, especially at the start, but then it went on and on and on like the Energizer bunny walking in ultra slow motion without a slightest indication of stopping in any discernible future. The last 50-60 pages were good, but the only thing that I felt when I turned the last page was of profound relief.

I was planning to read his other book, [b:The Whiskey Rebels|2182488|The Whiskey Rebels|David Liss|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320449920s/2182488.jpg|2188176] as soon as possible, but now, I first would have to forget that I read [b:A Conspiracy of Paper|49488|A Conspiracy of Paper (Benjamin Weaver, #1)|David Liss|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348126752s/49488.jpg|2362185] (aptly named as it sure has a paper-thin plot) before I try any further books written by David Liss. ( )
  Veeralpadhiar | Mar 31, 2013 |
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For some years now, the gentlemen of the book trade have pressed me in the most urgent fashion to commit my memoirs to paper; for, these men have argued, there are many who would gladly pay a few shillings to learn of the true and surprising adventures of my life.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0804119120, Paperback)

A fool and his money are soon parted--and nowhere so quickly as in the stock market, it would seem. In David Liss's ambitious first novel, A Conspiracy of Paper, the year is 1719 and the place London, where human greed, apparently, operated then in much the same manner as it does today. Liss focuses his intricate tale of murder, money, and conspiracy on Benjamin Weaver, ex-boxer, self-described "protector, guardian, bailiff, constable-for-hire, and thief-taker," and son of a Portuguese Jewish "stock-jobber." Weaver's father, from whom he has been estranged, has recently died, the victim of a horse-drawn carriage hit and run. Though his uncle has suggested that the accident wasn't quite so accidental, Benjamin doesn't give the idea much credence:
I blush to own I rewarded his efforts to seek my opinion with only a formal reply in which I dismissed his ideas as nonsensical. I did so in part because I did not wish to involve myself with my family and in part because I knew that my uncle, for reasons that eluded me, had loved my father and could not accept the senselessness of so random a death.
But then Benjamin is hired by two different men to solve two seemingly unrelated cases. One client, Mr. Balfour, claims his own father's unexpected death "was made to look like self-murder so that a villain or villains could take his money with impunity," and even suggests there might be a link between Balfour senior's death and that of Weaver's father. His next customer is Sir Owen Nettleton, an aristocrat who is keen to recover some highly confidential papers that were stolen from him while he cavorted with a prostitute. Weaver takes on the first case with some reluctance, the second with more enthusiasm. In the end, both converge, leading him back to his family even as they take him deep into the underbelly of London's financial markets.

Liss seems right at home in the world he's created, whether describing the company manners of wealthy Jewish merchants at home or the inner workings of Exchange Alley--the 18th-century version of Wall Street. His London is a dank and filthy place, almost lawless but for the scant protection offered by such rogues as Jonathan Wilde, the sinister head of a gang of thieves who profits by selling back to their owners items stolen by his own men. Though better connected socially, the investors involved with the shady South Sea Company have equally larcenous hearts, and Liss does an admirable job of leading the reader through the intricacies of stock trading, bond selling, and insider trading with as little fuss, muss, and confusion as possible. What really makes the book come alive, however, are the details of 18th-century life--from the boxing matches our hero once participated in to the coffee houses, gin joints, and brothels where he trolls for clues. And then there is the matter of Weaver's Jewishness, the prejudices of the society he lives in, and his struggle to come to terms with his own ethnicity. A Conspiracy of Paper weaves all these themes together in a manner reminiscent of the long, gossipy novels of Henry Fielding and Laurence Stern. Indeed, Liss manages to suggest the prose style of those authors while keeping his own, less convoluted style. This is one conspiracy guaranteed to succeed. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:22 -0400)

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An outsider in eighteenth-century London, Jewish pugilist and hired thug Benjamin Weaver prowls the city's mean streets in the service of England's gentry tracking down debtors and thieves.

(summary from another edition)

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