David Liss is the author of The Day of Atonement, The Twelfth Enchantment, The Devil's Company, The Whiskey Rebels, The Ethical Assassin, A Spectacle of Corruption, The Coffee Trader, andA Conspiracy of Paper, winner of the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. He lives in San Antonio with his wife and children.
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? Agent, Darhansoff and Verrill. (Mar. 11) Forecast: The current unstable financial markets give Liss's tale added resonance. Reviews should be plentiful. Nine-city author tour; rights sold in Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain and the U.K. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Miguel Lienzo is down on his luck in Amsterdam in 1659. Not only has he lost his fortune in the sugar market, but while attempting to recoup his losses by trading in brandy, he also lands himself so deeply in debt that he must relinquish his fine house in the affluent neighborhood on the Rozengracht canal to live in his brother's basement. When a pretty and enterprising widow offers him the chance to regain his fortune and his status by cornering the market in the new commodity of coffee, he jumps at the chance despite the laws forbidding Jews to act as agents for gentiles. This golden opportunity, however, plunges him into a shadowy world of plots and counterplots among traders on the Amsterdam Exchange and members of the rigidly claustrophobic Portuguese Jewish community. As in A Conspiracy of Paper, winner of the 2000 Edgar Award for Best First Novel, Liss creates a vivid portrait of high finance and religion. But the Byzantine plot and the complexities of futures trading dilute the suspense instead of creating it. Although The Coffee Trader lacks the narrative punch of Liss's previous novel, it will appeal to those interested in finance and sophisticated readers of historical fiction. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/02.]-Cynthia Johnson, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, MA Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
"AN ENTERTAINING TALE . . . [A] LEARNED PAGE-TURNER . . . Despite
the many characters and plot twists, Mr. Liss keeps his story in
--The Wall Street Journal "EXPERTLY PLOTTED AND EXCELLENTLY WRITTEN, and it has all the qualities readers want in novels--romance, mystery, suspense, betrayal and redemption, a feeling for how people lived in other times and places."
--The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) "UNUSUAL AND DIVERTING . . . Sometimes, as the book demonstrates with a nice twist, sincerity can be the greatest means of deception."
--The New York Times Book Review "[A] TRANSPORTING TALE OF FINANCIAL INTRIGUE . . . [Liss's] writing is smooth and elegant--like a good cup of coffee."
--The Boston Globe "STRONG BREW . . . [A] LITERATE THRILLER."
--People "Liss fashions a wide-ranging, labyrinthine plot. . . . He also has a historian's eye for detail, and he creates an Amsterdam that feels very much of its time. . . . Liss's novels are ultimately about a central truth of capitalism, which is that the system is bigger and more powerful than anyone within it. . . . The best moments of The Coffee Trader create a powerful sense of vertigo that's something like the vertigo of finance capitalism."
--The Washington Post Book World "Masterfully plotted, brilliantly imagined, The Coffee Trader brims with intelligence, intrigue, and suspense. David Liss has written a riveting novel about commerce and faith, loyalty and greed."
Author of The Ladies Auxiliary "David Liss has cornered a very narrow niche of the literary market--historical financial thrillers. And it must be said: He's quite good at it. . . . Lienzo's world comes to life in great (and frequently grimy) detail, and the workings of the Amsterdam bourse are eerily similar to modern commodities markets. . . . [The book is] more latte than espresso, and all the more enjoyable as a result."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"The Coffee Trader is a very fine piece of historical fiction, and also a uniquely resonant one. . . . David Liss makes the foreign familiar as he immerses the reader in a bustling and intrigue-ridden past."
--The Denver Post
"A DOUBLE SHOT OF PROSE SPICED WITH CHARACTERS AND COMMODITIES
AS ERRATIC AS THE DRINK ITSELF. . . .The Coffee Trader paints an evocative picture of Dutch life in the 1600s. Miguel Lienzo's thrilling flim-flam schemes in coffee bean speculation and Liss's insightful commentary on paper-tiger consortiums are rendered real and relevant. . . . Throughout Trader, Miguel remains a befuddling and charming rogue."
--Austin American-Statesman "Good to the last drop . . . Chock full of intrigue, suspense, and financial shenanigans . . . Liss transports the reader back in time . . . handl[ing] the seventeenth century and all the nuances of Dutch culture with utter ease. Whether it's his portrayal of the Ma'amad, the restrictive governing body of Miguel's Jewish community, or the complex characters appearing throughout the novel, The Coffee Trader is an excellent example of historical fiction in its finest form."
--The MetroWest Daily News "The premise and setting of The Coffee Trader is unique, with smaller-scale historical detail as richly rewarding as Liss's remarkable first work, A Conspiracy of Paper."
--The San Diego Union-Tribune "Each player in this complex thriller has a hidden agenda, and the twists and turns accelerate as motives gradually become clear."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review) "A NOVEL OVERFLOWING WITH INTRIGUE AND DUPLICITY . . .Once you've wandered the back alleys of Amsterdam with David Liss, you'll never look at your morning cup of coffee the same way again!"
Author of The Dress Lodger
and The Mammoth Cheese "In his second novel, David Liss creates his own genre: the historical noir. The seventeenth-century Amsterdam he depicts is a wonderfully dark city of secrets, roiling with deceitful maneuverings and caffeine-fueled perils. The Coffee Trader is vivid, utterly absorbing, and more than a little relevant to our current age of financial skulduggery."
Author of Extravagance "The Coffee Trader is riveting as a historical re-creation, compelling as a tale, and relevant both about the morality of community--in this case, Jewish community--and about the ethical corruptions of an economy where value is a function of perception, competition, and, above all, manipulation."
Author of Sacrifice of Isaac and Sea of Green "Liss provides plenty of unexpected twists and turns to keep the reader's attention glued to the page."
--Book Street USA