Last year a friend loaned me David Liss’s A Conspiracy of Paper, an eighteenth-century mystery novel starring a quirky hero, Benjamin Weaver, a Jewish ex-boxer turned “thieftaker.” Despite an unfortunate mix-up in which I assumed that the the book was a gift rather than a loan and I subsequently passed it on to someone else, the original owner was still nice enough to lend me the sequel, A Spectacle of Corruption, without my having even asked for it.
I liked A Conspiracy of Paper but found the details about the early stock exchange and the South Sea Bubble hard to follow because I simply don’t do very well with understanding anything financial. This book was much better since it turned, not on the details of eighteen-century finance, but on the details of eighteenth-century politics. Weaver, falsely accused of murder, has to clear his name and finds himself thrust into the middle of an election campaign, complete with Whigs, Tories, and scheming Jacobites. Along the way he encounters Miriam, his love interest from the last novel who has since married would-be Member of Parliament Griffin Melbury, and Weaver is in the uncomfortable position of having to befriend his beloved’s husband in order to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the murder. It’s a great ride all the way, Weaver is a truly fascinating though not always admirable hero, and if, like me, you find historical politics more interesting than historical finance, you will like this novel even better than its prequel. I did.