The Devil's Company (Benjamin Weaver Series #3) [NOOK Book]

Overview

BONUS: This edition contains a The Devil's Company discussion guide.

From the acclaimed and bestselling author of The Whiskey Rebels and A Conspiracy of Papercomes a stunning new thriller set in the splendor and squalor of eighteenth-century London.

The year is 1722. Ruffian for hire and master of disguise Benjamin Weaver finds himself pitted against a ...
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The Devil's Company (Benjamin Weaver Series #3)

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Overview

BONUS: This edition contains a The Devil's Company discussion guide.

From the acclaimed and bestselling author of The Whiskey Rebels and A Conspiracy of Papercomes a stunning new thriller set in the splendor and squalor of eighteenth-century London.

The year is 1722. Ruffian for hire and master of disguise Benjamin Weaver finds himself pitted against a mysterious mastermind who holds the lives of Weaver’s friends in the balance. To protect the people he loves, Weaver must stage a daring robbery from the headquarters of the ruthless British East India Company, but this theft is only the opening move in a dangerous game of secret plots, corporate rivals, and foreign spies. With the security of the nation—and the lives of those he loves—in the balance, Weaver must navigate a labyrinth of political greed and corporate treachery.

Explosive action and utterly vivid period detail are the hallmarks of an author who continues to set the bar ever higher for historical suspense.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Liss's novel dissects the corrupt underbelly of 18th-century commerce, politics and religion. Benjamin Weaver, a “thief taker,” is blackmailed into spying on the powerful British East India Company, while a variety of undercover and double agents keep their eyes on him. The audio version is enhanced by a stirring performance by Simon Vance. His rendition of Weaver as crafty but moralistic is nearly perfect, though Weaver comes across as more educated and middle class than Liss intended. But in tackling a long novel rife with dialogue, Vance performs a huge cast that reflects the London society of 1722, including merchants, textile workers, accountants, security guards, a Scottish physician, Portuguese Jews, French spies, street urchins, plus the denizens of many a tavern and brothel. A wide audience will be delighted by this fast-paced thriller, thanks to Vance's deft dramatization. A Random hardcover (Reviews, May 18). (July)
Library Journal

Liss's sixth novel marks the return of Benjamin Weaver, last seen in A Spectacle of Corruption. Weaver is probably Liss's most popular and enduring character; perhaps, as the ultimate outsider caught up in a struggle against the most powerful forces of 18th-century English society, he seems to embody the spirit of the author's historical thrillers. Here the renowned thief-taker agrees to an assignment that promises quick money, but when things go awry he ends up deeply in debt, ensnared by the mysterious figure Jerome Cobb into stealing documents from the notorious East India Company. The theft is just the first turn in an increasingly intricate plot, involving shadowy figures, the English government, and foreign spies. VERDICT This fast-paced and entertaining look at 1790s London will appeal to Liss's fans as well those readers who enjoy the historical thrillers of Matthew Pearl. [See Prepub Alert, LJ3/1/09.]—Douglas Southard, CRA International, Boston


—Douglas Southard
Kirkus Reviews
The Edgar Award winner's serial protagonist Benjamin Weaver (The Whiskey Rebels, 2008, etc.) grapples with financial chicanery and diversified villains in 18th-century London. Someone has provoked the vengeful ire of wealthy Jerome Cobb, who engages Benjamin, a burly thieftaker and constable for hire (think Dog the Bounty Hunter with a more elevated habit of speech and a courtlier demeanor), to look into the suspicious death of one Absalom Pepper-whose sole known characteristic, apparently, is his ridiculous name. As Benjamin plies his unauthorized trade, gentlemanly and socially insignificant bad guys pop up everywhere, sorely testing his brains and brawn (he's also an expert pugilist). Some of Benjamin's best friends and dearest relations, it turns out, have made the unstable Cobb's ever-lengthening enemies list. For example, Benjamin's beloved uncle Miguel Lienzo, a prosperous importer who himself played detective most engagingly in The Coffee Trader (2003), has seen a costly cargo of wine "lost" while being shipped from Europe to England. As the plots thicken, blood is spilled, beautiful women are compromised; the powerful East India Company is victimized by commercial espionage; and almost everybody's trusted servant seems to be working for a minimum of two masters. The signature flaw in the author's impressively erudite series is his passion to educate us. So much specific historical, cultural, industrial and commercial information is crammed into this otherwise streamlined narrative that the reader's brain seizes up in self-defense, hoping to avert overload; in the process, alas, it's easy to get lost from chapter to chapter. Reading Liss is almost as much of a task as a pleasure,but it is a pleasure, and for those who hang in there, the rewards are quite considerable. Witty and stimulating, albeit demanding, entertainment.
From the Publisher
“A treat for lovers of historical fiction. . . .accomplished, atmospheric, and thoughtful.”—Washington Post

“As distinguished by the compelling voice of its narrator as it is by its vibrant detail.”—Denver Post

“Witty and stimulating”—Kirkus

“More than just a finely written mystery. Liss injects thoughtful discussion of issues that should resonate in the best university business courses. Corporate ethics at the British East India Company appear to resemble those of Wall Street companies this decade.”—San Antonio Express-News

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781588369116
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/7/2009
  • Series: Benjamin Weaver Series , #3
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 178,032
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

David Liss is the author of The Whiskey Rebels, The Ethical Assassin, A Spectacle of Corruption, The Coffee Trader, and A Conspiracy of Paper, winner of the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. He lives in San Antonio with his wife and children.

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."

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    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 One

In my youth i suffered from too close a proximity to gaming tables of all descriptions, and I watched in horror as Lady Fortune delivered money, sometimes not precisely my own, into another’s hands. As a man of more seasoned years, one poised to enter his third decade of life, I knew far better than to let myself loose among such dangerous tools as dice and cards, engines of mischief good for nothing but giving a man false hope before dashing his dreams. However, I found it no difficult thing to make an exception on those rare occasions when it was another man’s silver that filled my purse. And if that other man had engaged in machination that would guarantee that the dice should roll or the cards turn in my favor, so much the better. Those of overly scrupulous morals might suggest that to alter the odds in one’s favor so illicitly is the lowest depth to which a soul can sink. Better a sneak thief, a murderer, even a traitor to his country, these men will argue, than a cheat at the gaming table. Perhaps it is so, but I was a cheat in the service of a generous patron, and that, to my mind, quieted the echoes of doubt.

I begin this tale in November of 1722, some eight months after the events of the general election of which I have previously written. The rancid waters of politics had washed over London, and indeed the nation, earlier that year, but once more the tide had receded, leaving us none the cleaner. In the spring, men had fought like gladiators in the service of this candidate or that party, but in the autumn matters sat as though nothing of moment had transpired, and the connivances of Parliament and Whitehall galloped along as had ever been their custom. The kingdom would not face another general election for seven years, and in retrospect people could not quite recollect what had engendered the fuss of the last.

I had suffered many injuries in the events of the political turmoil, but my reputation as a thieftaker had ultimately enjoyed some benefits. I received no little notoriety in the newspapers, and though much of what the Grub Street hacks had to say of me was utterly scurrilous, my name had emerged somehow augmented, and since that time I had suffered no shortage of knocks upon my door. There were certainly those who might now stay away, fearing that my exploits had an unpleasant habit of attracting attention, but many more gazed with favor upon the idea of hiring a man such as myself, one who had fought pitched battles as a pugilist, escaped from Newgate Prison, and shown his mettle in resisting the mightiest political powers in the kingdom. A fellow who can do such things, these men reasoned, can certainly find that scoundrel who owes thirty pounds; he can find the name of the villain who plots to run off with a high-spirited daughter; he can bring to justice the rascal who stole a watch.

Such was the beer and meat of my trade, but, too, there were those who made more uncommon uses of my talents, which was why I found myself that November night in Kingsley’s Coffeehouse, once a place of little reputation but now something far more vivacious. Kingsley’s had been for the past season a gaming house of considerable fashion among the bon ton, and perhaps it would continue to enjoy this position for another season or two. The wits of London could not embrace this amusement or that for too long before they grew weary, but for the nonce Mr. Kingsley had taken full advantage of the good fortune granted him.

While during daylight hours a man might still come in for a dish of coffee or chocolate and enjoy reading a newspaper or hearing one read to him, come sundown he would need a constitution of iron to attend to dry words. Here now were nearly as many whores as there were gamers, and fine-looking whores at that. Search not at Kingsley’s for diseased or half-starved doxies from Covent Garden or St. Giles. Indeed, the paragraph writers reported that Mrs. Kingsley herself inspected the jades to ensure they met her exacting standards. On hand as well were musicians who played lively ditties while an unnaturally slender posturer contorted his death’s head of a face and skeletal body into the most unlikely shapes and attitudes—all while the crowd duly ignored him. Here were middling bottles of claret and port and Madeira to please discriminating men too distracted to discriminate. And here, most importantly, were the causes of the distraction: the gaming tables.

I could not have said what made Kingsley’s tables rise from obscurity to glory. They looked much like any other, and yet the finest people of London directed their coachmen to this temple of fortune. After the play, after the opera, after the rout and the assembly, Kingsley’s was the very place. Playing at faro were several well-situated gentlemen of the ministry, as well as a member of the House of Commons, more famous for his lavish parties than for his skills as a legislator. Losing at piquet was the son of the Duke of Norwich. Several sprightly beaux tried to teach the celebrated comedienne Nance Oldfield to master the rules of hazard—and good luck to them, for it was a perplexing game. The great brought low and the low raised high—it all amused and entertained me, but my disposition mattered little. The silver in my purse and the banknotes in my pocket were not mine to wager according to my owninclinations. They were marked for the shame of a particular gentleman, one who had previously humiliated the man on whose behalf I now entered a contest of guile and deceit.

I spent a quarter of an hour walking through Kingsley’s, enjoying the light of countless chandeliers and the warmth of their fires, for winter had come hard and early that year, and outside all was ice and bitter cold. At last, grown warm and eager, with the music and laughter and the enticements of whores buzzing in my head, I began to formulate my plan. I sipped at thinned Madeira and sought out my man without seeming to seek out anyone. Such was an easy task, for I had dressed myself as a beau of the most foppish sort, and if the nearby revelers took notice of me they saw only a man who wished to be noticed, and what can be more invisible than that?

I wore an emerald and gold outer coat, embroidered almost beyond endurance, a waistcoat of the same color but opposing design, bright with brass buttons of some four inches in diameter. My breeches were of the finest velvet, my shoes more silver buckle than shiny leather, and the lace of my sleeves blossomed like frilly blunderbusses. That I might go unrecognized should anyone there know my face, I also wore a massive wig of the wiry sort that was fashionable that year among the more peacockish sort of man.

When the time and the circumstances seemed to me as I wished them, I approached the cacho table and came upon my man. He was a fellow my own age or thereabouts, dressed very expensively but without the frills and bright colors in which I’d costumed myself. His suit was of a sedate and dark blue with red trim, embroidered tastefully with gold thread, and he looked quite well in it. In truth, he had a handsome face beneath his short bob wig. At his table, he contemplated with the seriousness of a scholar the three cards in his hand and said something in the general direction of the ample breasts belonging to the whore upon his lap. She laughed, which I suspected was in no small degree how she earned her master’s favor.

This man was Robert Bailor. I had been hired by a Mr. Jerome Cobb, whom it seemed Bailor had humiliated in a game of chance, the outcome of which, my patron believed, owed more to chicanery than fortune. The tale I had been told unfolded accordingly: Subsequent to losing a great deal of money, my patron had discovered that Bailor possessed the reputation of a gamer who misliked the randomness of chance as much as he misliked duels. Mr. Cobb, acting upon his prerogative as a gentleman, challenged this Bailor, but Bailor had insolently excused himself, leaving the injured gentleman with no option but perfidy of his own.

Needing a man to act as his agent in these matters, he had sought me out and addressed his needs to me. I was, according to Mr. Cobb’s instruction, to manufacture a battle of cards with Bailor. Mr. Cobb had employed me to that end, but I was not the only one in his pay. So, too, was a particular card dealer at Kingsley’s, who was to make certain I lost when I wished to lose and, more importantly, won when I wished to win. Once I had succeeded in humiliating Mr. Bailor before as large a crowd as I could muster, I was to whisper to him, so that no other ears might hear, that he had felt the long reach of Mr. Cobb.

I approached the red velvet cacho table and stared for a moment  at Bailor’s whore and then for another moment at Bailor himself.  Mr. Cobb had informed me of every known particularity of his enemy’s character, among them that Bailor had no love for the gaze of strangers and loathed a fop above all things. A staring fop could not fail to attract his notice.

Bailor set down his three cards upon the table and the other two players did as well. After a smirk, he gathered the pile of money to himself. He slowly raised to me a pair of narrow eyes. The light was such that I could observe their dull gray color and that they were well lined with red, sure signs of a man who has been at play too long, has enjoyed his spirits overmuch, and is vastly in need of sleep.

Though somewhat hampered by bushy brows and a flattened nose with wide and flaring nostrils, he also possessed strong cheekbones and a square chin, and he was built like a man who enjoyed riding more than beef or beer. He therefore had something commanding about him.

“Direct your eyes elsewhere, sir,” he told me, “or I shall teach you the manners your education has sadly omitted.”

“Och, you’re a rude one, ain’t you, laddie?” I said, affecting the accent of a Scotsman, for in addition to fops, I had been made to understand that Bailor detested North Britons, and I was fully outfitted to attract his ire. “I was only having a wee peek at the lassie you’ve got ’pon you. Perhaps, as you’re not using her for aught but a lap warmer, you might lend her to me for a spell.”

His eyes narrowed. “I hardly think you would know what to do with a woman, Sawny,” he answered, using that name so insulting to Scotsmen.

For my part, I pretended to hold myself above such abuse. “I ken I wouldn’t let her turn stale while I sat playing at card games. I ken as much as that.”

“You offend me, sir,” he said. “Not only with your odious words but with your very being, which is an affront to this city and this country.” “I canna answer for that. Your offense is your own. Will you lend me the lassie or no?”

“No,” he said quietly. “I shan’t. What I shall do is challenge you to a duel.”

This drew a gasp, and I saw that a crowd had gathered to watch us. Some twenty or thirty spectators—sharply dressed beaux with cynical laughs and their painted ladies—pulled in close now, whispering excitedly among themselves, fans flapping like a great mass of butterflies.

“A duel, you say?” I let out a laugh. I knew what he meant but pretended to ignorance. “If your honor is so delicate a thing, then I’ll help you see who is the man of the two of us. Have ye in mind blades or pistols, then? I promise ye, I am equally partial to both.”

He answered with a derisive bark and a toss of the head, as though he could not believe there was still a backwards creature who dueled with instruments of violence. “I have no time for such rude displays of barbarism. A duel of the cards, Sawny, if you are willing. Do you know cacho?”

“Aye, I ken it. ’Tis an amusement for lassies and ladies and little boys who haven’t yet the hair on their chests, but if it is your amusement too I’ll not shrink from your wee challenge.”

The two gentlemen who had previously sat at his table now vacated, standing back that I might take one of the seats. I did so and, with the greatest degree of subtlety, glanced at the dealer of cards. He was a squat man with a red birthmark on his nose—just the fellow my employer, Mr. Cobb, had described to me. We exchanged the most fleeting of glances. All progressed in accordance with the plan.

“Another glass of this Madeira,” I called out, to whatever servant might hear me. I removed from my coat an elaborately carved ivory snuffbox and with all deliberate slowness and delicacy took a pinch of the loathsome stuff. Then, to Mr. Bailor, I said, “What have ye in mind then, laddie? Five pounds? Is ten too much for ye?”

His friends laughed. He sneered. “Ten pounds? You must be mad. Have you never been to Kingsley’s before?”

“It’s me first time in London, for all it matters. What of it? I can assure ye that my reputation is secure in my native land.”

“I know not what back alley of Edinburgh from which you come—”

I interrupted him. “’Tis not right you address me so. Ken ye I’m the Laird of Kyleakin?” I boomed, having only a poor notion of where Kyleakin was or if it was a significant enough place to have a laird at all. I did know that half the North Britons in the metropolis claimed to be laird of something, and the title earned the claimant more derision than respect.

“I have no concern for what bog you call home,” Bailor said. “Know you that at Kingsley’s no one plays for less than fifty pounds. If you cannot wager such an amount, get out and cease corrupting the air I breathe.”

“Fie on your fifty pounds. ’Tis no more than a farthing to me.” I produced a pocketbook, from which I retrieved two banknotes of ?twenty-?five pounds each.

Bailor inspected them to ascertain their legitimacy, for neither counterfeit notes nor the promise of a dissolute laird of Kyleakin would answer his purposes. These, however, came from a local goldsmith of some reputation, and my adversary was satisfied. He threw in two banknotes of his own, which I picked up and proceeded to study, though I had no reason to believe—or to care—if they were not good. I merely wished to antagonize him. Accordingly, I peered at them from all angles, held them up to the burning candles, moved my eyes in to study the print most minutely.

“Put them down,” he said, after a moment. “If you haven’t yet reached a conclusion, you never will unless you summon one of your highland seers. More to the point, my reputation is known here, yours is not. Now, we begin with a fifty-pound bet, but each additional wager must be no less than ten pounds. Do you understand?”

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 44 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 44 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 7, 2009

    EXCELLENT!

    Set in 18th century England,Benjamin Weaver "thiefcatcher",(sort of a combination of a private detective and a bounty hunter),finds himself embroiled in an ever deepening plot of international intrigue. Masterfully written by David Liss, with a host of characters both interesting and engaging, the pages seemed to fly by on their own.The first two books in the series "A Conspiracy of Paper" and "A Spectacle of Corruption",(not necessary to read them in order), were excellent. The Devil's Company is even better. I highly recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 24, 2010

    Literary letdown...

    I am huge fan of Liss, and waited and waited for another Weaver story, however this book was disappointing. It would have rated higher for me had the story not fallen apart the last 70 pages or so. I found myself skipping pages which I usually don't do because in the end, there were too many spies. It almost got comical.

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  • Posted April 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Loaded with plenty of detail yet filled with action,

    In 1722 London, wealthy Jerome Cobb hires thief-taker Benjamin Weaver to investigate the death of Absalom Pepper though not explainingwhy. The more Benjamin digs the less he finds on the victim. However, others do not appreciate his inquiry and tell him so; some with Benjamin's fists in their faces.

    Benjamin learns of his client's enemy list and begins to wonder if Cobb is a bit crazy. Meanwhile as his uncle Miguel Lienzo complains about a lost shipment from the continent, Benjamin finds himself looking closely into the books of the influential East India Company and facing a big loss with the Cobb contract, Weaver soon learns that commercial espionage is everywhere and politicians are for sale as once again the thief-taker finds himself in the center of A Spectacle of Corruption; the pre-industrial -political-aristocratic complex does what it wants.

    Loaded with plenty of detail yet filled with action, readers obtain a powerful look at finance in early eighteenth century style that parallels what has happened in the last few years. Ironically the East India Company is too big to fail yet in trouble die to corruption, bad deals, and selling of secrets in the "global economy" to rivals. The Devil's Company is a superb complicated but timely economics historical thriller.

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Posted September 13, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    David Liss does it again!

    A fantastic book. If you have read other David Liss books or love the historical fiction genre, then this novel is a must read.
    Benejamin Weaver is fleshed out even more in this new story. History and fiction or interwoven yet again to produce a story that will keep you on the edege of your seat and hardly putting the book down as you read. Can't wait till the next Liss novel!

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  • Posted September 12, 2009

    An interesting plot with many twists and turns. Charismatic characthers with great backstories. All around enjoyable read.

    As the story unfolds you find yourself thinking as if you are Benjamin. His characther is so boldly described that identifying with him is easy and even desireable. The devilry quickly grips your interest and plays with your brain until the very last page. The antics of Benjamin and his cohorts leave you wanting to jump up and join in. When the story leads Benjamin to the dubious Mr. Pepper he goes to great lengths to unfold the secret plot surrounding him. This whirlwind mystery, crossed with the power struggle in Parliment has every characther betrayed. David Liss has written a fablously entertaining novel with amazing attention to historical detail. I loved The Devils Company and look forward to reading more of Davids works.

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  • Posted September 12, 2009

    Another Success from David Liss

    I have read this author's other works and, as a consequence, always look forward to his next novel.

    His writing style makes full use of the English language and is precise as he attempts to replicate the speaking style and vocabulary of the century within which he operates.

    His characters are well drafted and are easy to relate to within the context of the plot. His mysteries are full and complex, introducing us to the deep flavor of the prevailing environment.

    I look forward to the next offering by David Liss.

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  • Posted September 5, 2009

    Love the Benjamin Weaver series!

    I look forward to each Davis Liss novel that comes out. This one is no exception. The Devil's Company is a fastinating story with historical facts centering around one of the most famous companies in the history - The British East India Company! Not to be missed !

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  • Posted August 29, 2009

    Well Written Yarn

    "The Devil's Company" was a fast moving, well wrotten sunburst of imagination. A bit long on the development but exciting and very readable as the story gains steam. I went out and bought a prior Liss book because I had such a good time with this one.

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  • Posted July 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The return of Benjamin Weaver! Hurrah!

    Liss began the Benjamin Weaver series with A Conspiracy Of Paper, a mystery of the early 18th century London stock exchange replete with murder and stock manipulation; next was actually its prequel, the enthralling Coffee Trader, a story of the early 1659 Amsterdam commodities market and a beguiling new commodity called the coffee bean, in which Benjamin's grandfather was the protagonist; the third, A Spectacle of Corruption, was the down-and-dirty of 18th century English elections, with murder and voting fraud integral parts of the mix.

    In-betwixt these novels for those of us who needed our Benjamin Weaver fix was the twisty tale "The Double Dealer" in Thriller, the anthology edited by James Patterson, a story of murderous highwaymen. And now there is The Devil's Company, a marvelous story that takes on the fabled, extraordinarily rich East India Company.

    Benjamin Weaver was based on the 18th century Sephardic Jew Isaac Mendoza, the most formidable bare-knuckled boxer of his time. Weaver is also a Sephardic Jew, from Amsterdam by way of Portugal in flight from the Inquisition; the family will eventually settle and find monetary success in London's vibrant Jewish quarter, but not Weaver. He's non-observant, changed his name, and follows strange professions: after he's badly injured in the ring, he becomes a thief-taker, pursuing criminals and other low-lifes for private clients. He's a wonderful creation with whom the reader has instant empathy.

    In The Devil's Company, he's blackmailed by a scoundrel who wants him to steal documents from the heavily-guarded East India Company -- think the 1722 equivalent of any 20th/21st century capitalist enterprise protected by a national government in order to pursue imperialistic policies abroad under the guise of trade -- and, if he doesn't, havoc will be wrought upon those family and friends he loves best.

    Weaver's a highly principled man, as well as intelligent and physically quite strong, and he attempts to out-maneuver the man who's got him in thrall, with results not always entirely successful. Along the way, he will meet up with a romantic interest -- Liss portrays wonderful female characters but perhaps does not develop them as fully as he might -- a woman who may be on the opposite side of his blackmailer, or maybe not. She's enigmatic and fascinating, but there's no resolution, alas, to the sexual tension underlying the convoluted plot.

    David Liss's historical novels take the reader to new and different heights. (Not in the Weaver series is The Whiskey Rebels, set against the establishment of the first bank of the U.S. and unfair tax policies on the frontier, i.e.,western Pennsylvania, and what a savage frontier it was!) Liss explores and makes fascinating dry economic history, and is at home with discussions of early stock markets, commodities exchanges, and the like.

    The reader cannot help but learn a great deal whilst meandering through byzantine plots and learning what it meant to live in ages gone by. The squalor and gruesomeness of ordinary life is set against unforgettable backdrops of great opulence and wealth. The East India Company, a force to be reckoned with, caught many in its sticky spider web of deceit and plunder.

    Highly recommended for those who like their history factual and delving into arcane topics. A memorable, beautifully written novel with strong characters, excellent plotting, and a wonderful sense of time and place.

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  • Posted July 7, 2009

    An incredible novel! Loved it!

    To fans of novelist David Liss, and to anyone who loves thrillers set in dramatic historic times, The Devil's Company is a wonderful encore. Benjamin Weaver, the Jewish pugilist-turned-detective, returns to action against a new and mighty adversary - England's most powerful organization, the East India Company. In the tradition of Liss's Conspiracy of Paper (winner of Edgar) and Spectacle of Corruption, Weaver becomes entangled with dangerous people whose agenda and wickedness are reminiscent of modern-time global business titans. Friendship, love, betrayal, and outright violence keep the story moving-both in velocity and emotionally. Especially in these days, as we all witness the consequences of ruthless business practices, economic recklessness, and corporate greed, it is fascinating to watch Weaver expose the gritty underpinnings of Victorian-age global trade and its loathsome-yet-delicious characters. The Devil's Company is a great read! Avi Azriéli, Paradise valley, AZ.

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  • Posted July 7, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Relax---Benjamin Weaver is back

    Benjamin Weaver is up to his old tricks--as are his advisaries. Mr. Liss has constructed an exciting mystery, thriller and historical novel. THE DEVIL'S COMPANY is a carefully researched history of business combined with a compelling story. I enjoyed being led down carefully thought out mazes and then running into "facts" completely different from my obvious conclusions.

    TDC is one of those rare reading experiences that upon completion, you realize that you have been both educated and entertained.

    I look forward to the next escapade of Mr. Weaver. I hope he has the longevity to reach the 21st century.

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  • Posted July 6, 2009

    A Most Remarkable Book...add Benjamin Weaver to the ranks of Sherlock Holmes,Hercule Poirot, Sam Spade,and James Bond!

    One day while on vacation, I stepped into a local bookstore looking for a bit of literary adventure. I decided I wanted to read some fiction, instead of the usual history I tend to gravitate to. I randomly pulled off the shelf a book called the "Coffee Trader" by David Liss, not knowing a thing about the book or the author. The literary fates smiled upon me that day. I was amazed that a book set in 16th century Amsterdam could be so full on intrigue, suspense and absolutely thrilling to read. After that, I tracked down his other works of historical fiction, "The Conspiracy of Paper" and "The Spectacle of Corruption," and was introduced to one of the most fascinating heroes in literary fiction, Benjamin Weaver.

    "The Devil's Company" the third in the Benjamin Weaver series, is a fantastic book! It follows the exploits of Benjamin Weaver, a private investigator, in London in the fall of 1722. Mr. Weaver is employed to avenge the honor of his client, through a set up in a game of chance. This is but the beginning of a tale so full of malice, intrigue and malevolent cleverness that one worries if Mr. Weaver's "derring do" will be enough to prevail. Also, I never thought the British East India Company could be such a vipers' nest of scheming. What transpires there has relevance today and illustrates that corporate perfidy is not a recent development. Mr. Weaver is compelled to go to work for "the Company" by a mysterious cabal. The stakes are incredibly high as Mr. Weaver has to sort through ever shifting facts and alliances, and his Herculean task ensnares the reader to such an extent that one is cautioned to set aside some serious reading time, lest one stay up half the night.

    Mr. Liss has written a superlative book. He captures the feel and sound of 18th century London. His attention to detail and compelling story telling brings to mind Patrick O'Brian in his "Aubrey/Maturin" series, Jean-Christophe Ruffin in "The Abyssinian," or Stephen Harridans' "The Gates of the Alamo." If you enjoy a good mystery, attention to detail, a thriller, or just revel in a well written entertaining book, then "The Devil's Company" is the book

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 3, 2009

    David Liss has done it again!

    I've read all of David Liss's published books. They are among the most enjoyable books I have ever read in all my 54 years on Earth. I have just finished The Devil's Company, and enjoyed this story as much if not more as his other books. From the whirlwind of the early chapters to the final, satisfying conclusion as the hero, Benjamin Weaver, thwarts the plans and machinations of the evildoers(I will say no more), The Devil's Company is a book that I will savor the memory of reading. I think I can only say that about maybe two other books I've read. A brilliantly written period fiction piece with fascinating characters, a complex,thrilling plot, and a style and pace that drews me in from the very first sentence. Highly recommended - you must read this!

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  • Posted May 6, 2009

    THE DEVIL'S COMPANY

    RECEIVED AN ADVANCE COPY OF THIS NEW NOVEL,AND IT IS CLEARLY THE AUTHOR'S BEST EFFORT YET!

    THE MAIN CHARACTER,BENJAMIN WEAVER IS TESTED TO NEAR HIS LIMITS THROUGHOUT EVERY TWIST AND TURN.

    BENJAMIN MAY HAVE MET HIS EQUAL HOWEVER, WITH THE NEWEST CAST MEMBER,CELIA GLADE.

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