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“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.”
“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.”
“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
From the Hardcover edition.
1) The Coffee Trader is a novel in which moral, ethical, and emotional
choices are often bound up with monetary and financial
choices. How do financial dealings shape or define character?
Does this novel suggest a relationship between financial dealings
2) Miguel, the novel’s central character, often makes some questionable
choices even though he regards himself as essentially honest
and upstanding. Do you think he is a good person or a bad
person? Why do you think so? What about Geertruid?
3) Given the degree to which The Coffee Trader depicts merchants
tricking and deceiving one another, do you think trade on the
Amsterdam Exchange inherently deceptive, or is it simply trade in
which some people choose to behave deceptively? How do the
activities on the Exchange influence the lives of traders when they
are off the Exchange? Can merchants effectively rope off financial
deception as one aspect of their lives and behave ethically
4) How does the setting of this novel—Amsterdam and its various
communities and locales—affect the novel? How does the setting
influence the events, the characters? Is the setting familiar or
alien to you? In what ways are the lives of people in seventeenthcentury
Amsterdam familiar to you, and in what ways are they unlike
people today? What surprised you most about the way people
5) There are a number of people in The Coffee Trader who are out to
harm Miguel, or at the very least trick and manipulate him toward
their own ends. Given that virtually no one is truly trustworthy,
do you think that this novel has a central villain? Who? How
should villainy be defined?
6) Is Hannah a modern character in a pre-modern situation, or do
you think her view of herself, the world, and her options are
rooted in a particularly seventeenth-century perspective? What
exactly are her goals? How would a contemporary woman in her
7) Discuss the role of the Ma’amad in Amsterdam’s Jewish community.
What is the relationship between the Ma’amad and the
Inquisition in Portugal?
8) In his interview, the author mentions that this book was originally
going to center on chocolate instead of coffee. How do you
think it would have been different if chocolate had remained at
9) Discuss Miguel’s commitment to religious observance. What
motivates his devotion? Do you think of him as being particularly
religious? Does his attachment to worship and the Jewish community
affect how you feel about him?
10) Reviewers have called this novel a thriller, though it lacks
many of the traditional characteristics of one—no one gets killed,
people are rarely placed in physical danger. Is this novel a thriller?
How does it work to keep the reader anxious about the fates of
11) Discuss the novel’s ending. Why do you believe the author
made the choices he did in the various resolutions of the
plot threads? Do these characters get what they deserve? Why or
12) How is the kind of financial deception in The Coffee Trader like
or unlike what we see in our own times? Is what happens on the
Amsterdam Exchange similar to scandals like Enron or World-
Com? Is the difference just a matter of scale?
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Another of David Liss's awesome page turners which, while on the one hand provides grade A entertainment, at the same time manages to educate, as you follow his charecters down the shadowy Amsterdam back alleys and into the financial centers during a time which pre-saged the Wall Street age.
J.R. Locke, Author of
Down and Out in Manhattan, a New York Tale &
Possible Twenty, a Gangster Tale
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 9, 2013
I have written a review on Goodreads.
I liked this book about Amsterdam's trade exchange, Miguel, a trader and Jew, and the introduction of coffee to Europe. Some people ate the beans, some mixed the beans with boiled milk and others let hot water drip over the beans.
This author is a talented writer who made very few mechanics errors. His style resembled the comings and goings and the ups and downs of the trade market. His characters were well developed. Three stars is an excellent rating in my opinion. Thank you for a good read, Mr. Liss.
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 15, 2012
David Liss is very discriptive in his writings. Having previously read the Whiskey Rebels and The Twelfth Enchantment (and completly enjoying them), I thought I was in for a real treat with The Coffee Trader. Unfortunately, this tale never took off for me. I was well into the book (pg 140), when I thought it would take off. Though slightly more interesting, I could not get into it. (Maybe it was me.) Very thorough; very discriptive; historically accurate; always well written, but this book, The Coffee Trader, just never caught my imagination or interest.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 2, 2010
This is David Liss second novel, and once again it is a great read. Liss is very good at developing characters that are believable in their actions and perform the way you expect them to in each situation they face. His ability
to place you in the time and setting of the novel is also very thorough. Before reading this book I knew little or nothing about Amsterdam of 1659. By the end I felt like I knew the city, it's customs, and people, as if I had first hand knowledge of them. His plotting also moves smoothly to a exciting,surprising,and very logical ending. An historical fiction that has a true literary sense to it. A step above just an historical novel a great read.
Posted February 21, 2010
A great read from cover to cover. The character development was subtle with perfect timing. One got to know the characters personalities gradually and with better understanding as each one dealt with their own conflict.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 20, 2010
This novel with the most interesting characters,plots and themes was good reading with my coffee!David Liss is a gifted author with a smooth style.The persona of Miguel wove a complicated individual. With the plots of his brother,Daniel,his threating relations with other colorful characters and the questionable innocence of Hannah it was a novel to hold my attention. The ending was somewhat surprising and not what I'd expected.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 10, 2008
After reading Liss' first historical novel, I was impressed enough to go right out and get this one. I was not disappointed. This book pulls you into a time and place that most of us know very little about, which is the great fun of historical fiction. I've already bought his third novel and look forward to another romp through time.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 18, 2008
I was gifted this book as a bargain-bin find that my grandmother thought might interest me---not the most auspicious of recommendations, but I was intrigued enough by the premise to read it. I'm so glad I did, and I will definitely seek out more of his books. If you enjoy historical fiction such as Philippa Gregory or Carlos Ruiz Zafon, you will certainly enjoy the fast-paced plot of The Coffee Trader. Liss manages his complicated threads well, and despite lots of unexpected twists, he carries the reader along without confusion but also without giving away the end. A highly recommended read!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 23, 2006
I could not put this book down. This is the first book of David Liss' that I read and when I finished it I ran out and bought The Conspiracy of paper and A Spectacle of Corruption. I absolutely Loved it!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 13, 2006
Posted July 10, 2005
In the 16-hundreds Amsterdam was the richest city in Europe. The exchange of paper representing commodities was advanced to near perfection, but the difficulties of keeping track of what was traded allowed for speculation to turn into conspiracy. Luckily for the readers, none of our money is at risk, but here lies a painles education in free trade. Is the story good? You bet. Coffee is being introduced in Europe, and trading in the beans is the hook for the story. All the characters are pulled about by there own flaws and by powers beyond their control. All the characters have to fight themselves lest kind motives cost themselves money, and all are as real as our own neighbors. The Jews of Amsterdam provide the immediate millieu, but the stage of action is the Amsterdam Excvhange at the height of power. A great read!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 14, 2005
David Liss is widely recognized as one of the great new authors on the literary scene, and this book does nothing to tarnish the reputation. Liss's engrossing character development and suspenseful plots leave the reader begging for more. All of Liss's books are treats, and this one may be the best of all.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 3, 2005
This book was really hard for me to get into. It was slow, boring and had absolutely no suspense. If you have a lot of time on your hands, go for it. But if you are checking it out from the library, you might as well just take it back because you probably won't get through it before it's due.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 18, 2004
Posted May 26, 2004
It was very hard to picture a Commodities exchange plot in the 17 th century with Converso Jews. The way the story is told is not engageing, it is 100% betrayal, 0% suspense, and with all characters being wicked and deceiving how can you have romance? There is not enough research of that Circa's historical facts. The character descriptions through out the book are repetitive, the part of the story that tells about the coffe trade business is predictable as well as the fate of the characters. I have read other well researched fictional novels based on historical facts about Converso Jews and Catholics living in Europe through those difficult centuries trying to make a living and exposed to wicked events that are far better.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 24, 2004
With the setting in 17th Century Amsterdam, David Liss employs the inevitable emergence of coffee on the commodities exchange to explore the intriguing interplay between those who would seek to find their fortune in trading by whatever means necessary. The plot delves deep into the hidden goals and subterfuge used by the market players to outplay, outwit, and outlast each other toward attaining wealth and status. Such rich character expose proclaims their humanity and tenuous destiny. A fun read of historical fiction and a challenging trip back to the origins of coffee traded on world markets.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 1, 2004
This is a very fine read. David Liss has written an historical novel about coffee's beginnings in Europe, the Jewish community in tolerant Amsterdam, and woven a web of mystery and deceit, wherein the reader, and also the central character, is not sure what is true and what is false. What the author does here is much more, however. He presents aspects of human nature which we do not readily face; that the view others have of us does not match that which we have constructed of ourselves, and that we acquire what we can at the expense of others. The characterizations are vivid, and there are surprises at the end of the book. This is the second book I have read by David Liss, and while I thoroughly enjoyed 'A Conspiracy of Paper', I would rate this book even higher. Strongly recommended!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 4, 2003
A fascinating look at Jewish life and business during the seventeenth century. I read Conspiracy of Paper (the author's first novel) and could not wait to get my hands on this book. In the age of Starbucks, it was interesting to read about a time where most people had never heard of coffee. Great characters and plot.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 13, 2003