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The Coffee Trader: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

The Edgar Award–winning novel A Conspiracy of Paper was one of the most acclaimed debuts of 2000. In his richly suspenseful second novel, author David Liss once again travels back in time to a crucial moment in cultural and financial history. His destination: Amsterdam, 1659—a mysterious world of trade populated by schemers and rogues, where deception rules the day.

On the world’s first commodities exchange, fortunes are won and lost in an ...
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The Coffee Trader: A Novel

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Overview

The Edgar Award–winning novel A Conspiracy of Paper was one of the most acclaimed debuts of 2000. In his richly suspenseful second novel, author David Liss once again travels back in time to a crucial moment in cultural and financial history. His destination: Amsterdam, 1659—a mysterious world of trade populated by schemers and rogues, where deception rules the day.

On the world’s first commodities exchange, fortunes are won and lost in an instant. Miguel Lienzo, a sharp-witted trader in the city’s close-knit community of Portuguese Jews, knows this only too well. Once among the city’s most envied merchants, Miguel has lost everything in a sudden shift in the sugar markets. Now, impoverished and humiliated, living on the charity of his petty younger brother, Miguel must find a way to restore his wealth and reputation.

Miguel enters into a partnership with a seduc-tive Dutchwoman who offers him one last chance at success—a daring plot to corner the market of an astonishing new commodity called “coffee.” To succeed, Miguel must risk everything he values and test the limits of his commercial guile, facing not only the chaos of the markets and the greed of his competitors, but also a powerful enemy who will stop at nothing to see him ruined. Miguel will learn that among Amsterdam’s ruthless businessmen, betrayal lurks everywhere, and even friends hide secret agendas.

With humor, imagination, and mystery, David Liss depicts a world of subterfuge, danger, and repressed longing, where religious and cultural traditions clash with the demands of a new and exciting way of doing business. Readers of historical suspense and lovers of coffee (even decaf) will be up all night with this beguiling novel.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781588362414
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/4/2003
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 44,943
  • File size: 413 KB

Meet the Author

David  Liss
David Liss is the author of A Conspiracy of Paper, winner of the 2000 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. He has a graduate degree in English literature from Columbia University, as well as an M.A. from Georgia State University and a B.S. from Syracuse University. He lives in San Antonio with his wife and daughter, and can be reached via his website, www.davidliss.com.


From the Hardcover edition.

Biography

David Liss never received his doctorate. According to the tongue-in-cheek F.A.Q.s on the author's web site, this is the second most common question that Liss is asked in interviews. The first, of course, is "are you Jewish?"

Halfway through his dissertation on 18th century British literature and culture, Liss decided to take a shot at writing fiction. His extensive knowledge of early British culture and his Jewish heritage informed the world he would create -- an anarchic, corrupt economic playground in which Jews and Christians forge tenuous bonds in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

For the next few semesters, Liss wrote his dissertation during the school year and his novel during breaks. As time went on, the breaks became longer and longer. Liss found himself ignoring his dissertation and concentrating full time on his fiction, living off of a fellowship grant he had received to finish his studies. The gamble paid off; published in 2000, A Conspiracy of Paper was released to glowing reviews and brisk sales.

A Conspiracy of Paper introduced readers to Benjamin Weaver, the "thief-taker" who is also the protagonist of Liss's third novel, Spectacle of Corruption. Benjamin Weaver is "an outsider in eighteenth-century London: A Jew among Christians; a ruffian among aristocrats; a retired pugilist who, hired by London's gentry, travels through the criminal underworld in pursuit of debtors and thieves." Critics and mystery readers immediately took to this "Philip Marlowe done up in a wig and buckles," and A Conspiracy of Paper won Liss the Edgar award for Best First Novel.

The Edgar came as somewhat of a mixed blessing for the young novelist. Liss did not necessarily set out to write a "mystery novel," nor did he feel any particular leanings toward continuing to write in the mystery genre. By winning the Edgar, Liss feared that he would be pigeonholed as "the historical mystery guy." So for his second novel, Liss decided to take a step away from Weaver, further back into the 17th century.

The Coffee Trader tells the tale of Miguel Lienzo, a Jewish trader in Amsterdam who tries to corner the market on a promising new commodity known as coffee. Echoes of our current economic climate surface throughout, and the storyline carries a special poignancy in today's culture of multinational coffee chains.

A Conspiracy of Paper fans finally received their second helping of Benjamin Weaver in 2004, with the release of Spectacle of Corruption. This time around, Weaver escapes from prison and steps incognito into the world of 18th century politics. The setting gives Liss a fresh opportunity to flex his intellectual muscles, creating a fascinating and enlightening portrait of London's political scene.

Liss is currently putting the finishing touches on his fourth novel, which he promises will have nothing to do with the eighteenth century, stock trading, or men in wigs. As for that dissertation, Weaver is still listed in his official bio as a doctoral candidate. With three successful novels and a fourth in the works, however, Liss is not rushing to finish his degree. When asked whether he feels a need to complete the degree, he says, "Not at all. I'd quit again if I could."

Good To Know

A few outtakes from our interview with Liss:

"I once spent a spent a summer selling encyclopedias door to door."

"I am dedicated to the cause of animal rights."

"On my first day of college, I vomited on the dining hall steps in front of a timid young lady and her horrified parents."

"I don't have any especially interesting unusual hobbies. When not working or parenting, I tend to be reading, exercising (I'm told that fitness has replaced alcoholism for contemporary writers), and general socializing. I have a long-standing interest in, and appreciation of, wine."

"Also, I'm thinking of starting my own cult -- a small group of people who will give me all of their material possessions and worship me as the most powerful being in the universe. If you're interested in joining, shoot me an email."

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      San Antonio, Texas
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 16, 1966
    2. Place of Birth:
      Englewood, New Jersey
    1. Education:
      B.S., M.A., M.Phil.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

It rippled thickly in the bowl, dark and hot and uninviting. Miguel
Lienzo picked it up and pulled it so close he almost dipped his nose
into the tarry liquid. Holding the vessel still for an instant, he
breathed in, pulling the scent deep into his lungs. The sharp odor of
earth and rank leaves surprised him; it was like something an apothecary
might keep in a chipped porcelain jar.

“What is this?” Miguel asked, working through his irritation by pushing
at the cuticle of one thumb with the nail of the other. She knew he had
no time to waste, so why had she brought him here for this nonsense? One
bitter remark after another bubbled up inside him, but Miguel let loose
with none of them. It wasn’t that he was afraid of her, but he often
found himself going to great lengths to avoid her displeasure.

He looked over and saw that Geertruid met his silent cuticle mutilation
with a grin. He knew that irresistible smile and what it meant: she was
mightily pleased with herself, and when she looked that way it was hard
for Miguel not to be mightily pleased with her too.

“It’s something extraordinary,” she told him, gesturing toward his bowl.
“Drink it.”

“Drink it?” Miguel squinted into the blackness. “It looks like the
devil’s piss, which would certainly be extraordinary, but I’ve no desire
to know what it tastes like.”

Geertruid leaned toward him, almost brushing up against his arm. “Take a
sip and then I’ll tell you everything. This devil’s piss is going to
make both our fortunes.”

It had begun not an hour earlier, when Miguel felt someone take hold of
his arm.

In the instant before he turned his head, he ticked off the unpleasant
possibilities: rival or creditor, an abandoned lover or her angry
relative, the Danish fellow to whom he’d sold those Baltic grain futures
with too enthusiastic a recommendation. Not so long ago the approach of
a stranger had held promise. Merchants and schemers and women had all
sought Miguel’s company, asking his advice, craving his companionship,
bargaining for his guilders. Now he wished only to learn in what new
shape disaster would unfold itself.

He never thought to stop walking. He was part of the procession that
formed each day when the bells of the Nieuwe Kerk struck two, signaling
the end of trading on the Exchange. Hundreds of brokers poured out onto
the Dam, the great plaza at Amsterdam’s center. They spread out along
the alleys and roads and canal sides. Along the Warmoesstraat, the
fastest route to the most popular taverns, shopkeepers stepped outside,
donning wide-brimmed leather hats to guard against damp that rolled in
from the Zuiderzee. They set out sacks of spices, rolls of linen,
barrels of tobacco. Tailors and shoemakers and milliners waved men
inside; sellers of books and pens and exotic trinkets cried out their
wares.

The Warmoesstraat became a current of black hats and black suits,
speckled only with the white of collars, sleeves, and stockings or the
flash of silver shoe buckles. Traders pushed past goods from the Orient
or the New World, from places of which no one had heard a hundred years
before. Excited like schoolboys set free of the classroom, the traders
talked of their business in a dozen different languages. They laughed
and shouted and pointed; they grabbed at anything young and female that
crossed their path. They took out their purses and devoured the
shopkeepers’ goods, leaving only coins in their wake.

Miguel Lienzo neither laughed nor admired the commodities set out before
him nor clutched at the soft parts of willing shop girls. He walked
silently, head down against the light rain. Today was, on the Christian
calendar, the thirteenth day of May, 1659. Accounts on the Exchange
closed each month on the twentieth; let a man make what maneuvers he
liked, none of it mattered until the twentieth, when the credits and
debits of the month were tallied and money at last changed hands. Today
things had gone badly with a matter of brandy futures, and Miguel now
had less than a week to pluck his fat from the fire or he would find
himself another thousand guilders in debt.

Another thousand. He already owed three thousand. Once he had made
double that in a year, but six months ago the sugar market collapsed,
taking Miguel’s fortune with it. And then–well, one mistake after
another. He wanted to be like the Dutch, who regarded bankruptcy as no
shame. He tried to tell himself it did not matter, it was only a little
while longer until he undid the damage, but believing that tale required
an increasing effort. How long, he wondered, until his wide and boyish
face turned pinched? How long until his eyes lost the eager sparkle of a
merchant and took on the desperate, hollow gaze of a gambler? He vowed
it would not happen to him. He would not become one of those lost souls,
the ghosts who haunted the Exchange, living from one reckoning day to
the next, toiling to secure just enough profit to keep their accounts
afloat for one more month when surely all would be made easy.

Now, with unknown fingers wrapped around his arm, Miguel turned and saw
a neatly dressed Dutchman of the middling ranks, hardly more than twenty
years of age. He was a muscular wide-shouldered fellow with blond hair
and a face almost more pretty than handsome, though his drooping
mustache added a masculine flair.

Hendrick. No family name that anyone had ever heard. Geertruid Damhuis’s
fellow.

“Greetings, Jew Man,” he said, still holding on to Miguel’s arm. “I hope
all goes well for you this afternoon.”

“Things always go well with me,” he answered, as he twisted his neck to
see if any prattling troublemaker might lurk behind him. The Ma’amad,
the ruling council among the Portuguese Jews, forbade congress between
Jews and “inappropriate” gentiles, and while this designation could
prove treacherously ambiguous, no one could mistake Hendrick, in his
yellow jerkin and red breeches, for anything appropriate.

“Madam Damhuis sent me to fetch you,” he said.

Geertruid had played at this before. She knew Miguel could not risk
being seen on so public a street as the Warmoesstraat with a Dutchwoman,
particularly a Dutchwoman with whom he did business, so she sent her man
instead. There was no less risk to Miguel’s reputation, but this way she
could force his hand without even showing her face.

“Tell her I haven’t the time for so lovely a diversion,” he said. “Not
just now.”

“Of course you do.” Hendrick grinned widely. “What man can say no to
Madam Damhuis?”

Not Miguel. At least not easily. He had difficulty saying no to
Geertruid or to anyone else–including himself–who proposed something
amusing. Miguel had no stomach for doom; disaster felt to him like an
awkward and loose suit. He had to force himself each day to play the
cautious role of a man in the throes of ruin. That, he knew, was his
true curse, the curse of all former Conversos: in Portugal he had grown
too used to falseness, pretending to worship as a Catholic, pretending
to despise Jews and respect the Inquisition. He had thought nothing of
being one thing while making the world believe he was another.
Deception, even self-deception, came far too easily.

“Thank your mistress but give her my regrets.” With reckoning day soon
upon him, and new debts to burden him, he would have to curb his
diversions, at least for a while. And there had been another note this
morning, a strange anonymous scrawl on a torn piece of paper. I want my
money. It was one of a half dozen or so Miguel had received in the last
month. I want my money. Wait your turn, Miguel would think glumly, as he
opened each of these letters, but he was unnerved by the terse tone and
uneven hand. Only a madman would send such a message without a name–for
how could Miguel respond even if he had the money and even if he were
inclined to use what little he had for something so foolish as paying
debts?

Hendrick stared, as though he couldn’t understand Miguel’s good, if
thickly accented, Dutch.

“Today is not the day,” Miguel said, a bit more forcefully. He avoided
speaking too adamantly to Hendrick, whom he had once seen slam a
butcher’s head into the stones of the Damplatz for selling Geertruid
rancid bacon.

Hendrick gazed at Miguel with the special pity men of the middle rank
reserved for their superiors. “Madam Damhuis told me to inform you that
today is the day. She tells me that she will show you something, and
when you set your eyes on it, you will forever after divide your life
into the time before this afternoon and the time after.”

The thought of her disrobing flashed before him. That would be a lovely
divide between the past and the future and would certainly be worth
setting aside his business for the afternoon. However, Geertruid loved
to play at these games. There was little chance she meant to take off as
much as her cap. But there was no getting rid of Hendrick, and urgent as
his troubles might be, Miguel could make no deals with this Dutchman
lurking in his shadow. It had happened before. He would trail Miguel
from tavern to tavern, from alley to canal side, until Miguel
surrendered. Best to have this over with, he decided, so he sighed and
said he would go.

With a sharp gesture of his neck, Hendrick led them off the ancient
cobbled street and across the steep bridges toward the new part of the
city, ringed by the three great canals–the Herengracht, the
Keizersgracht, and the Prinsengracht–and then toward the Jordaan, the
most rapidly growing part of town, where the air echoed with the ring of
hammer on anvil and the chipping of chisel on stone.

Hendrick led him along the waters of the Rozengracht, where barges
pierced the thick canal mist as they headed toward the docks to unload
their goods. The new houses of the newly wealthy stood on either side of
the murky water, facing the oak- and linden-lined waterway. Miguel had
once rented the better part of so fine a house, red-brick and
steeple-gabled. But then Brazilian production of sugar had far exceeded
Miguel’s expectations. He’d been gambling on low production for years,
but suddenly Brazilian farmers unleashed an unexpected crop, and in an
instant prices collapsed. A great man of the Exchange as instantly
became a debtor living off his brother’s scraps.

Once they departed from the main street, the Jordaan lost its charm. The
neighborhood was new–where they stood had been farmland only thirty
years before–but already the alleyways had taken on the decrepit cast of
a slum. Dirt replaced the cobblestones. Huts made of thatch and scraps
of wood leaned against squat houses black with tar. The alleys vibrated
with the hollow clacking of looms, as weavers spun from sunup until late
into the night, all in the hope of earning enough to keep their bellies
full for one more day.

In moments of weakness, Miguel feared that poverty would claim him as it
had claimed the wretched of the Jordaan, that he would fall into a well
of debt so deep he would lose even the dream of recovering himself.
Would he be the same man then–himself, yet penniless–or would he become
as hollow as the beggars and luckless laborers he passed on the streets?

He assured himself it would not happen. A true merchant never gives in
to gloom. A man who has lived as a Secret Jew always has one more trick
to save his skin. At least until he fell into the clutches of the
Inquisition, he reminded himself, and there was no Inquisition in
Amsterdam. Just the Ma’amad.

But what was he doing here with this inscrutable Dutchman? Why had he
allowed his will to collapse when he had business, important business,
to pursue?

“To what sort of place are you taking me?” Miguel asked, hoping to find
a reason to excuse himself.

“A miserable sort of place,” Hendrick said.

Miguel opened his mouth to voice an objection, but it was too late. They
had arrived.

Though he was not, like the Dutch, inclined to believe in omens, Miguel
would later recall that his venture had begun in a place called the
Golden Calf, surely an unpromising name. They climbed down a steep and
viciously low-ceilinged stairwell to the cellar, a little room that
might comfortably have held thirty souls but now contained perhaps
fifty. The choking smoke of cheap West Indian tobacco and musty peat
stoves nearly suppressed the scent of spilled beer and wine, old cheese,
and the odor of fifty unwashed men–or, rather, forty men and ten
whores–whose mouths puffed out onions and beer.

At the bottom of the stairs, an enormous man, shaped remarkably liked a
pear, blocked their passage, and sensing that someone wished to get by
he moved his bulk backwards to prevent anyone from squeezing past. He
held a tankard in one hand and a pipe in the other, and he shouted
something incomprehensible to his companions.

“Move your monstrous bulk, fellow,” Hendrick said to him.

The man turned his head just enough to register his scowl and then
looked away.

“Fellow”–Hendrick tried again–“you are the hard turd in the ass of my
journey. Don’t make me apply a purgative to flush you out.”

“Go piss in your breeches,” he answered, and then belched laughter in
his friends’ faces.

“Fellow,” said Hendrick, “turn around and see to whom you speak so
rudely.”

The man did turn around, and as he saw Hendrick the grin melted from his
jowly three-days-unshaved face. “Begging your pardon,” he said. He
pulled his cap down off his head and moved quickly out of the way,
knocking clumsily into his friends.

This newfound humility wasn’t enough to satisfy Hendrick, who reached
out like the lash of a whip and grabbed the man’s filthy shirt. The
tankard and pipe fell to the floor. “Tell me,” Hendrick said, “should I
crush your throat or not crush your throat?”

“Not crush,” the drunk suggested eagerly. His hands flapped like bird
wings.

“What do you say, Jew Man?” Hendrick asked Miguel. “Crush or not crush?”

“Oh, let him go,” Miguel answered wearily.

Hendrick released his grip. “The Jew Man says to let you go. You
remember that, fellow, next time you think to toss a dead fish or rotten
cabbage at a Jew. A Jew has saved your hide today, and for no good
reason, too.” He turned to Miguel. “This way.”

From the Hardcover edition.

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Reading Group Guide

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
and morality?

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
elsewhere?

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
lived?

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
situation respond?

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
the center?

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
the characters?

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
why not?

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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 41 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(17)

4 Star

(12)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(3)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 41 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 2, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    The Business remains the same

    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  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2013

    Good Read

    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  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 15, 2012

    Somewhere Along the way I Simply Lost Interest. . .

    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  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Just As Good The Second Time

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 21, 2010

    Good To The Last Drop!

    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  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Good Book

    good book for book clubs

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 3, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Intrigruing I could smell the coffee!

    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  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2008

    Liss is an Outstanding Writer

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2008

    An unexpected pleasure!

    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!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2006

    Coffee Anyone?

    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!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2006

    Great look into the genesis of both the stock market, and coffee.

    Great characters and of course an even better storyline from Liss. Definitely recommend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2005

    A Romp Through the Richest Stock Market?

    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!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2005

    Another Great One

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2005

    Rough start

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2004

    Couldn't Get Through It!

    Not at all what I expected...put it down half way through - no desire whatsoever to finish this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2004

    Disappointing

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2004

    Where Coffee and Trading emerged

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2004

    intrigue and betrayl

    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!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2003

    Read it in two days

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2003

    Great book!

    The was a great book from beginning to end!

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