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The Coffee Trader: A Novel [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio CD]

David Liss , Graeme Malcolm
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 4 2003
The Edgar Award–winning novel A Conspiracy of Paper was one of the most acclaimed debuts of 2000. In his richly suspenseful second novel, author David Liss once again travels back in time to a crucial moment in cultural and financial history. His destination: Amsterdam, 1659—a mysterious world of trade populated by schemers and rogues, where deception rules the day.

On the world’s first commodities exchange, fortunes are won and lost in an instant. Miguel Lienzo, a sharp-witted trader in the city’s close-knit community of Portuguese Jews, knows this only too well. Once among the city’s most envied merchants, Miguel has lost everything in a sudden shift in the sugar markets. Now, impoverished and humiliated, living on the charity of his petty younger brother, Miguel must find a way to restore his wealth and reputation.

Miguel enters into a partnership with a seduc-tive Dutchwoman who offers him one last chance at success—a daring plot to corner the market of an astonishing new commodity called “coffee.” To succeed, Miguel must risk everything he values and test the limits of his commercial guile, facing not only the chaos of the markets and the greed of his competitors, but also a powerful enemy who will stop at nothing to see him ruined. Miguel will learn that among Amsterdam’s ruthless businessmen, betrayal lurks everywhere, and even friends hide secret agendas.

With humor, imagination, and mystery, David Liss depicts a world of subterfuge, danger, and repressed longing, where religious and cultural traditions clash with the demands of a new and exciting way of doing business. Readers of historical suspense and lovers of coffee (even decaf) will be up all night with this beguiling novel.


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Liss's first novel, A Conspiracy of Paper, was sketched on the wide canvas of 18th-century London's multilayered society. This one, in contrast, is set in the confined world of 17th-century Amsterdam's immigrant Jewish community. Liss makes up the difference in scale with ease, establishing suspense early on. Miguel Lienzo escaped the Inquisition in Portugal and lives by his wits trading commodities. He honed his skills in deception during years of hiding his Jewish identity in Portugal, so he finds it easy to engage in the evasions and bluffs necessary for a trader on Amsterdam's stock exchange. While he wants to retain his standing in the Jewish community, he finds it increasingly difficult to abide by the draconian dictates of the Ma'amad, the ruling council. Which is all the more reason not to acknowledge his longing for his brother's wife, with whom he now lives, having lost all his money in the sugar trade. Miguel is delighted when a sexy Dutch widow enlists him as partner in a secret scheme to make a killing on "coffee fruit," an exotic bean little known to Europeans in 1659. But she may not be as altruistic as she seems. Soon Miguel is caught in a web of intricate deals, while simultaneously fending off a madman desperate for money, and an enemy who uses the Ma'amad to make Miguel an outcast. Each player in this complex thriller has a hidden agenda, and the twists and turns accelerate as motives gradually become clear. There's a central question, too: When men manipulate money for a living, are they then inevitably tempted to manipulate truth and morality?
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

His A Conspiracy of Paper having won the 2000 Edgar Award for Best First Novel, Liss returns with another tale of historical intrigue. In 1600s Amsterdam, Portuguese Jew Miguel Lienzo ignores the strictures of his community and joins forces with a Dutchwoman to capture the coffee market.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars No Coffee Good story July 8 2013
By Tim
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I don't drink coffee and wasn't sure I was going to like a book about coffee, especially since I don't read a lot of fiction. To my surprise I liked it and learned a lot about the 1600's and the customs. History has never been in my interests, but if we can learn history like this, I'm all for it. Great story intertwined with the realities of the times.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 17th Century Amsterdam History July 2 2007
By Teddy
Format:Paperback
When I first started listening to The Coffee Trader, I didn't think I was going to like it. Perhaps it's just me, but Graeme Malcolm's reading grated on my nerves. I decided that reading the book myself might make it better. It did.

Though it got off to a slow start it brewed into a nice deep aroma. While the characters and story were good, I especially enjoyed the history of the Amsterdam commodities exchange. One of the world's first commodities exchange. You get a real feel for the place, people, and time period. There's a little bit of something for everyone in this novel mystery, suspense, romance, and betrayal.

I recommend you curl up with this book and a good cup of coffee.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Caffeinated historical fiction April 25 2007
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I picked up this novel purely by chance as I'd been discussing the coffee trade elsewhere.

What an intriguing novel: set in Amsterdam in 1659 and based on commodities exchange, we follow the fortunes of Miguel Lienzo who is one of the traders. Lienzo has lost everything due to a sudden collapse in the sugar market. Can he change his fortunes with success in trading coffee?

At the same time, there is tension within the community of Portugese Jews to which Lienzo belongs and between Lienzo and just about everyone he comes into contact with.

As in all trading, knowledge is power. David Liss brings life to the world of what was, apparently, the world's first commodities exchange. Few of the characters are intrinsically likeable and yet they are perfect for the story.

Highly recommended to those who like suspense in their historical fiction.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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4.0 out of 5 stars Caf-fiendish deception June 6 2004
Format:Paperback
This is a fascinating story set in the middle of the 17th century about a number of Portuguese-Jewish refugees from the Spanish Inquisition. On the enlightened shores of Amsterdam, they, along with others, make their living in commodities trading, and how remarkably little this activity has since changed over four centuries.
As they do now, traders gamble over the rise and fall of prices by buying and selling "puts" (an option giving one the right to sell at a later date for an artificially-high price) and "calls", (an option giving one the right to buy at a later date for an artificially-low price). Having once briefly dabbled in commodities trading, I am familiar with these strategies but never before imagined that they were anything other than 20th-century innovations.
Yet at one stage, one trader cynically advises another, "Go buy whale oil - not futures, but the thing itself. You may remember that the rest of the world still transacts business in that quaint manner."
The story specifically centers around the efforts of one trader in particular, Miguel Lienzo, who is introduced to a wondrous new fruit called "coffee" that when ground and brewed into drink imparts astonishing powers of reason and concentration and also has the power to preserve health, help digestion, and cure consumption and other maladies of the lung, as well as fluxes, jaundice and inflammation. One character in the novel naively crunches this "fruit" between her teeth before learning of its greater appeal as a brew.
Anticipating a tremendous demand for this new commodity, Miguel arrives at a plan to use his trading acumen to acquire a monopoly on it, all the while juggling business and personal affairs that threaten to undo him before his plan comes to fruition.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great history, and novel not too bad June 6 2004
Format:Hardcover
I very much enjoyed the historical part of this book. The picture of historical Amsterdam and the information about early commodities trading were fascinating. Even the characters were interesting. What kept the book from being more satisfying was that all of the characters were scammers -- not my favorite sort of person -- and that it was difficult to care what happened to any of them. First, one person would appear to be winning, and then another would trick him, and all along, it made no difference to me whether this one or that one ended up ascendant. I couldn't even say that one person was more wicked or more pathetic or more interesting than another.
Liss is a good writer who keeps the prose moving right along. The basis of the story is very interesting to me. Maybe the idea that Liss wanted to convey was that there are no honest or big-hearted businessmen. But if so, that is an unsatisfying picture of the world.
I give the novel three stars because the historical information was good enough to overcome my disappointment with the novel.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Stock Exchange - circa 1659 June 1 2003
Format:Hardcover
David Liss historically recreates Amsterdam in 1659 in his intriguing novel The Coffee Trader. The Netherlands in the mid 1600's has become a haven for Inquisition persecuted Jews who have fled their Iberian roots. In Amsterdam under the direction of the Ma'amad, the law giving Jewish ruling council, Jews were permitted to openly practice their religion.
The story revolves around Miguel Lienzo, a transplanted Portuguese Jew who is a trader of some note on the Dutch commodities exchange. Lienzo has seen his fortunes take a tumble in the sugar market. He is in debt and in forced to take up residence with his scornful brother Daniel and his pregnant wife Hannah.
Lienzo has been recruited by an attractive Dutch widow, Geertruid Damhuis to be a broker in a coffee buying deal in which he will be an equal partner. Coffee at this time in Europe is a very speculative commodity and not as of yet popular as a beverage. The potential for the deal to be extremely profitable strongly exists if Lienzo can bring it all together.
The story proceeds to document the hardships Lienzo encounters while endeavoring to make the deal happen. The most difficult stumbling block is one Solomon Parido, a wealthy merchant and parnass or powerful member of the Ma'amad. Parido believes he has been slighted by Lienzo in an impending arranged marriage between Parido's daughter and Miguel. Parido is using all his power to try to destroy the coffee deal and seek revenge on Lienzo.
Davis Liss is a gifted wordsmith as he paints a wonderfully descriptive picture of Amsterdam in the 1650's. His story expertly navigates it's way through the highs and lows encountered by Lienzo in his dealings to consumate the coffee deal.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Coffee Trader - David Liss
I bought this copy for my Dad as I had already read a copy of it from my local library. I loved the book - I love the historical information and the setting is described so... Read more
Published on Aug. 15 2010 by G Saxe
3.0 out of 5 stars Trouble brews as coffee makes its entrance...
Meet Miguel Lienzo, a Portuguese Jew charmed by a wealthy and mysterious Dutch widow, Geertruid, who offers him a business partnership in the coffee trade. Read more
Published on Sept. 6 2009 by I LOVE BOOKS
5.0 out of 5 stars A great tale, the best of Liss' novels
I loved this book. If you're looking for a well-researched novel that you can completely become engrossed in, this is it. Read more
Published on July 11 2004 by Mike Stanley
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Read, but Does Not Resonate
I really enjoyed reading "The Coffee Trader" as a nice little story of duplicity and intrigue in the business capital of 17th century Europe -- Amsterdam. Read more
Published on May 24 2004 by Scott Schiefelbein
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book, though not as good as his first one
Fans of Conspiracy of Paper, the first book by David Liss, will find much the same intrigue and imagination in this, his second book. Read more
Published on May 13 2004 by Matthew Krichman
4.0 out of 5 stars great read for us coffee junkies
liss does a masterful job of transporting the reader to a time and place that are so distant (yet not so...) from our modern world. Read more
Published on May 13 2004 by David Levine
4.0 out of 5 stars A page-turner
I have to be honest, I dont read for leisure as much as I would like to. As a college student, if I can find time for fiction, I should be using that time to read textbooks. Read more
Published on May 9 2004 by Matt Wildrick
4.0 out of 5 stars Good mix of history and fiction
I can't comment on the accuracy of the historic data about either the city of Amsterdam or the stock market, but as one who has had some personal experience, if very limited, with... Read more
Published on April 27 2004 by David Harris
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