01 December 2014

A Conspiracy of Paper, by David Liss

The copy of this book that I have is an advance reader's edition, apparently prepared to send to reviewers before the book is released to the general public. There is a request on the back cover not to quote directly from this edition, but to refer to the official edition when it is released for exact quotes.

This is interesting, as the book I read contained many errors, mostly simple typographic errors, but also lapses of style. I noticed the phrase "I blush to own" used at least three times close enough together to be annoying. Perhaps the final edition was somewhat improved.

Conspiracy of Paper is a pretty good mystery, but I got bogged down in it toward the end and found myself wishing that the author had trimmed perhaps a hundred pages. It is set in London in 1719. The protagonist is Benjamin Weaver, a retired prize-fighter who has gone into the business of finding things and people for people, for a fee. The story begins with a request to discover the truth behind a suicide: the dead man's son believes his father was murdered--and further, believes that Weaver's own father, also thought to be a suicide, was murdered as well.

The book is written in a style that was probably intended to evoke the period in which the story is set. This is partially successful, but at times I was too aware of it.

An interesting aspect of the story is its discussion of the emergence of stock markets and paper money, and the intrigue and deception that those new inventions facilitated.

New York Times review

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