A Spectacle of Corruption: A Novel Paperback – Nov 23 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
This sequel to Liss's Edgar Awardwinning A Conspiracy of Paper (2000) brings back ex-pugilist Benjamin Weaver and his 18th-century London environs in all their squalid glory. Benjamin has become a "thieftaker," a sort of bounty hunter/private eye, and is investigating the simple case of a threatening letter when he is caught up in a riot, accused of murder and sentenced to hang. After a gutsy escape, he sets about unraveling the mystery of who framed him and why. Donning the disguise of a wealthy coffee planter from Jamaica, Benjamin infiltrates the upper classes, where he encounters a plot centering on a hotly contested House of Commons election. There is much explanation (perhaps too much) of the history and philosophies of the Whig, Tory and Jacobite parties, but this is nicely balanced with Benjamin's forays into London's underbelly, where he has his way with the ladies and dodges dangerous louts looking to kill him. The real fun is the re-creation of the streets of London ("He fell into the alley's filth-the kennel of emptied chamber pots, bits of dead dogs gnawed on by hungry rats, apple cores and oyster shells") and the colorful denizens thereof. Many hours are spent in innumerable coffeehouses, with Benjamin and company imbibing coffee, chocolate, ale, wine and that great destroyer of the poor, rotgut gin, and employing such useful swear words as "shitten stick," "arse pot" and "bum firking." Mystery and mainstream readers with a taste for gritty historical fiction will relish Liss's glorious dialogue, lively rogues, fascinating setting and indomitable hero.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*Starred Review* Late-seventeenth- and early-eighteenth-century England--from Cromwell through the Jacobites--has become the richest of soil for writers of literary thrillers, the equivalent of New Orleans for contemporary hard-boiled authors. Liss makes the most of it in this sequel to the acclaimed Conspiracy of Paper (2000). Benjamin Weaver, an outsider three times over--a Jew, a former pugilist, and a "thief-taker" (one who helps victims of robbery recover their goods)--is in the soup again, framed for murder and without a clue as to who or why. He intends to answer both those questions, but first he must break out of Newgate Prison. He does so, in a marvelous set piece, and then finds himself in an even messier pickle: politics. The first English general election is in progress, with Tories and Whigs out-dirty-tricking one another while the Jacobites lurk on the outskirts, hoping to foment a revolution. To determine why he was framed, Benjamin must ingratiate himself with a leading Tory, who happens to be the husband of Benjamin's former lover, Miriam, now posing as a Gentile. Liss' elegantly constructed, multidimensional plot combines all the intrigue of the Jacobite era with a Dickensian feel for London' s lower depths and for the "spectacle of corruption" that is the city's politics. Perhaps the greatest pleasure here is the perfect melding of sharply rendered historical detail with a charismatic, fast-talking hero (an eighteenth-century version of Robert B. Parker's Spenser). This is a series to be savored. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is the second book Mr. Liss has written about the escapades of Weaver, a thieftaker in London under the reign of the Hanoverian King George I. The author brilliantly shows the sights and sounds of the seamy streets and tawdry taverns of the cities' east side where groups of ruffians roam the streets and death comes easily to the uninitiated. He also shows that prejudice against certain ethnic groups is nothing new in our century.
After all the twists and turns, I felt the ending was a little lame but perhaps the author left an opening for another sequel and I would certainly be interested in reading more about the roguish Mr. Weaver. Comment | Permalink
Okay, enough of that nonsense.... this book is really very good. I was a bit lazy while reading A Conspiracy of Paper so I don't remember all the details, but I'm able to pick back up 4 years later quite nicely. Benjamin Weaver is a good protagonist, and Liss spins a great and intelligent tale.
Liss as an author reminds me of Ken Follett. And I mean that as a sincere compliment. The "Pillars of the Earth" Ken Follett. The best of Ken Follett.
As far as Liss' three major novels go, I'd rank them thusly...
1. Coffee Trader - my favorite book of his
2. A Spectacle of Corruption - Ben Weaver is better this time round
3. A Conspiracy of Paper - Partly my fault but I just couldn't get into it as much as others.
Bottom line, this book is well worth your time, you'll really enjoy it!
With the SPECTACLE OF CORRUPTION, David Liss has managed to create a complex yet compelling historical mystery. Characters are realistic creations but the problem is there are so many minor ones that, at times, it may be hard to keep track of who is who. However, the main characters are original and memorable. The plot with a bit too much complexity tends to meander and there's a certain lack of focus. Weaver appears to travel around and around in circles trying to get answers. This is not a fast read in any sense of the word. However it is all encompassing and so well written that the casual reader would find the time well worth spent.
Most recent customer reviews
This is another excellent work of historical fiction by David Liss. A very entertaining and engaging read. Benjamin Weaver is a mischevious character and wonderful narrator. Read morePublished on Nov. 21 2006 by Rob Nicol
Don't get me wrong -- this is a very good book -- better than 95 percent of what's published as popular fiction. Read morePublished on June 23 2004