A Spectacle of Corruption

This is the sequel to A Conspiracy of Paper, which I read a few years ago. I said then, and I’ll say it again, I will continue reading Liss. But I didn’t think it would be three years. This book continues the adventures of Benjamin Weaver, a private detective in 18th Century London. Ahh, I do like historical fiction and I’m starting to love period pieces.

This book is set in 1720’s London, about 30 years after King James II was dethroned. I did a little rooting around in Wikipedia and came up with a few things. King James II was the last Catholic to be king (1688). There was much “upheaval” in England at this time. Protestants and Catholics didn’t trust each other. France and England didn’t trust each other. Whigs and Tories didn’t trust each other. And underlying all of this was the chance that the Pretender (the son of King James II), was trying to plot the overthrow of the government from his base in France.

To put this in perspective, the time frame was about 100 years after the Golden Age of Queen Elizabeth. King James II was part of the Stuart line of royalty. The Stuart line included Mary, Queen of Scots, who was executed for trying to kill Queen Elizabeth, her father’s first cousin. Be sure not to confuse Mary, Queen of Scots, with Mary I of England (“Bloody Mary”), who re-established Catholicism in England, which was eventually reversed by her half sister, Queen Elizabeth. Thanks Wikipedia for taking this full cycle. Where would I be without you. So yeah, there was a lot of intrigue and treachery happening, which provides a great backdrop for some solid historical fiction.

Benjamin Weaver is a great character and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. Supposedly it’s due out later this year. This according to the bio at David Liss’ official website. Who, upon further reading of his website, appears to have a particularly, and admitted, liberal view when it comes to “unregulated and overly-exuberant markets.” In fact, he engaged in a little war of words with the NYT over the facts in his latest novel, The Whiskey Rebels, released in late 2008. This is interesting to me because Alexander Hamilton factors into this novel and I really need to learn more about Hamilton, especially since I just finished John Adams, an arch rival of Hamilton’s. I think I need to read Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton.

Wow, I’m glad I did this rooting around. It really opened my mind to a few other books that I can’t wait to read.

So yeah, this is a great book. Weaver is wrongly accused of murder so he sets out to clear his name. During that process, he masquerades as a wealthy tobacco trader from Jamaica and runs in social and political circles that a Jewish private detective wouldn’t normally be accepted in. Throw in a murderous villain and a crooked politician who Weaver has to team with, then mix in a few love interests, and you have a ton of good fun.