The Devil's Company (Benjamin Weaver Series #3)

The Devil's Company (Benjamin Weaver Series #3)

by David Liss

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Overview

From the acclaimed and bestselling author of The Whiskey Rebels and A Conspiracy of Paper comes 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812974522
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/20/2010
Series: Benjamin Weaver Series , #3
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 353,572
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.86(d)

About 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.

Hometown:

San Antonio, Texas

Date of Birth:

March 16, 1966

Place of Birth:

Englewood, New Jersey

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?”

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Devil's Company (Benjamin Weaver Series #3) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
rossberliner More than 1 year ago
"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.
DR-STU More than 1 year ago
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.
dougwood57 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the third book by Liss that has featured Benjamin Weaver, a retired prize-fighter and now a `thief-taker¿. The book is set in London during the 1720s and centers around the British East India Company and their bitter struggles with local silk weavers and the `wool interest¿. Weaver is forced against his will to investigate the inner doings of the Company¿s Craven House headquarters. He knows not for whom is working nor does he have a clear picture of what he is looking for. I characterize the book as historical mystery rather than simple historical fiction. Liss does provide some interesting glimpses into early 18th century London, especially the Rules of the Fleet, a law-free area around Fleet Prison where debtors were free from arrest and clandestine marriages took place without banns or license. Liss¿s primary focus, however, is the mystery. The first mystery is what is it all about. Who has taken control of Weaver, why and to what end. The book only slowly gives up the answers and takes so many twists and turns along the way that the surprises eventually become tedious. A good surprise or two or three is one thing, but the ploy is overworked. It hardly paid to try to figure things out because as soon as you made some progress, Liss yanks out the proverbial rug. If you really like to solve intricate fluid mysteries and you like historical fiction, this is the book for you.
LiteraryFeline on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was the first novel I have read by the author but will not be my last. I found the novel quite entertaining and enjoyed spending time in Liss' world. I love a good historical thriller and this was no exception. It made for an enjoyable read. I hadn't realized this was a series book going in, but I had no problem following along.
picardyrose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
18th-Century industrial spies. Entertaining, but not very memorable.
havetea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Liss is a strong period writer. I have followed main character Benjamin Weaver from Conspiracy of Paper and Spectacle of Coruption to Devil's Company. Liss's writing syle, pros, and good plot development transport you to Georgian England. To me this is good sign of a terrific story and writing.
randalrh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
David Liss is fairly prolific, and I've read each of his books as they've come out, more or less on the strength of A Conspiracy of Paper. While none of the subsequent books have been poor reads, neither have they risen to the level of his debut, until now. Ben Weaver, the protagonist of the first novel, is back, but the quality of The Devil's Company has more to do with the tightness and intricacy of the storyline, as well as with his use of period (fall 1722, not just 18th century England) detail without going so overboard with it as to distract. I'm glad to see Liss back on top of his game.
horacewimsey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ostensibly an 18th-century English spy mystery, but really a morality tale decrying the greed and corruption of the corporation. Being of the money-grubbing, pro-business persuasion, I was naturally disgusted.
LiterateHousewife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Devil¿s Company is the third in David Liss¿ Benjamin Weaver series. Weaver is a thief-take and former boxer of some repute in 18th century London. In this installment, which was my first, we find Weaver at a loss when he discovers himself in a great deal of debt to one of his customers. Not only did this customer, one Mr. Cobb, purposefully create this scenario to keep Weaver in his debt, he bought up the debts of Weaver¿s beloved uncle, good friend, and acquaintance. While Weaver did nothing to create this situation, he feels morally responsible for the detrimental financial impact this situation has caused. He is forced, then, to accept an assignment he had previously turned down ¿ to break into the highly guarded offices of the East India Company and steal documentation for an upcoming meeting. Unfortunately, this isn¿t the last of what Mr. Cobb requires and he keeps Weaver in the dark on his ultimate purposes. In order to free himself and his friends and loved ones from Mr. Cobb¿s grip, Weaver has to fight to keep Mr. Cobb happy while working behind the scenes to discover what he really wants and seek his revenge.This novel was a breath of fresh air for me for this period of London¿s history. Other novels set in this same time and place, most recently The Brothers Boswell, have been dry and quite slow. Liss¿ story is not only fast paced and continually interesting, but the dialog, most specifically the banter between Weaver and his good friend, Elias, made this novel so enjoyable. The style of speech and the relative formality of personal interactions felt authentic to the time period, but I had no difficulty putting myself in the same room or following along with the characters as they walked down the road. While I can¿t say that I would have wanted to live during that time, I feel as though I visited there.The Devil¿s Company is more than just a mystery with a scrappy hero. It delves into the connections between big business and governmental power. While the East India Company is a huge giant carrying a big stick doing what it can to keep its market share and put down any type of government interference, this novel discussed the relationship between a governments need for power and security and the wealth and stability of big multi-national companies. It is interesting to think that you can bring down a world power by attacking its wealthiest private companies. If those companies in turn treat the people as disposable waste, where should you hold your loyalty?Having never read any of David Liss¿ previous work, I wasn¿t sure what to expect. He is a talented writer who has created memorable and, most importantly, realistic characters. I previously bought a copy of his novel The Coffee Trader as it takes place in Amsterdam. I am eager to read it now because of the author. I also want to read A Conspiracy of Paper and A Spectacle of Corruption, the first two novels in this series Benjamin Weaver is such a great character I want to read his complete back story. With The Devil's Company, I have found a new historical novelist that I love to explore. What a gem is that?
Kirconnell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When you sit down with one of David Liss's books you don't just settle in to read....you immerse yourself into another time and place. At least, that is how I feel every time I pick one up. This time he returns to 18th century London with his hero Benjamin Weaver. Weaver is being blackmailed into providing services for some mysterious folk and the story just gets more complicated as you read. Liss loads this book with the sounds, scents, politics, people and slang language of the time period to provide a genuine feel for this century.It is a plot with lots of red herrings and twists and turns and also more accessible than his previous book, The Whiskey Rebels. A good read.
cbl_tn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Once again David Liss has delivered a historical thriller with a contemporary theme. This time, thief-taker Benjamin Weaver (as close to a private investigator as one gets in the early 18th century) is drawn into the world of British commerce via the East India Company and the guild of silk weavers. Tensions between globalism and localism would seem to be nothing new.This was one of those books that, once I started reading, I had difficulty putting down. I was hooked from the first chapter. Circumstances required Weaver to be constantly alert. With each new discovery, he had to form and test new theories that led to yet more discoveries. There never seemed to be a good place to stop. I kept reading "just one more chapter" before fixing dinner or going to sleep, and before I knew it, I had finished the book!This is the third Benjamin Weaver novel. I recently read the first, but I haven't yet read the second one. (It's still on my TBR pile.) I thought about reading it before I read this one but, since I'm one of those readers who prefers not to read books by the same author back to back, I decided not to. I didn't feel like I was missing vital information by not having read the previous book. However, there were several references to events of the second novel that may have given away some of its surprises. Because of this, I would recommend that the series be read in the order of publication.
lmedgerton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great book about the machinations of the British East India Company in 1720's England. Benjamin Weaver returns as Liss's protagonist and is blackmailed into doing nefarious deeds against the company. I had not read the other Weaver books but am definitely going to since I read this one. For those readers who loved The Coffee Trader, the Weaver series is connected to that book also. Liss's plotting is like a turn of the screw. Each turn of the plot makes the book all the greater and by the end all the threads of the plot end perfeclty. My only quibble with this book is that not much is made of Weaver being a Jew, or even a non-practicing Jew, however, in Benjamin Weaver, we see the Jewish stereotype destroyed.And to David Liss, thanks for signing the book, can't wait for the next one.
TheCriticalTimes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Devil's Company is the third in a series of novels around a former pugilist turned adventuring sleuth, set against the dark and imposing backdrop of 18th century London. This time Benjamin Weaver has fallen prey to the hands of the mysterious Mr. Cobb. Bound to this master blackmailer, Ben Weaver finds himself fighting for his own as well as his friends' lives. At the center of the mystery is yet again the fledgling stock market, of which Mr. Liss writes often in this series. Rapidly Weaver finds himself caught in a complex web of international thievery and spies.After I read The Whiskey Rebels, a wonderful novel of the beginnings of the American economy, I noticed a drastic increase in writing quality. Sadly however this next novel is quite a decline from that standard. Most of the events are predictable and contrived. The reader can easily assume what will happen next and does not feel on the heels of adventure but quite ahead of the game. The Devil's Company is filled with large plot holes, chapters that add no value to the book and characters that are not even described in any detail at all. Most disturbing is the fact that the protagonist is consistently portrayed as an idiot who has more luck than brains. Stranger still is the notion that at the very end of the novel all of this is apparently turned around and we are to believe Ben Weaver was the cleverest one after all. Throughout reading the novel, which I will admit was great fun, I had the impression that Mr. Liss was told to not focus on the mechanics and details of the stock market, but instead focus on the action and adventure. If this is so I hope the next novel will change that back.
LizzieD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is my first David Liss mystery (Thank you, ER and LT!), and I had very high hopes for a well-researched, well-written mystery. I think my hopes were too high because I was a bit disappointed. The mystery is there, and the writing is more than competent. I had, however, hoped to learn about the inner workings of the East India Company in the early eighteenth century, and that didn't happen. I have long enjoyed the mystery writer's ability to immerse his reader in a particular time and place as a side benefit of basic escape reading. While this book offers a feel for 18th century London, the East India Company is no more than a hook to hang a mystery on. In fact, the only pieces of information that I didn't already have were the bits about the Rules of the Fleet and the "mollies." I also want to quibble about the introduction of French spies to the mix. In the earlier half of the book, I felt them to be an intrusion in what was otherwise a clearly-written mix of motives and machinations. By the end their presence was justified, I guess. I'm left with an unsettled feeling that suggests that I was either not paying attention as I read or that the author wrote too quickly and contrived too facilely. Having made my quibbles, I did enjoy the book. Benjamin Weaver and his doctor friend Elias Gordon are two appealing characters; Miss Glade is lovely and enigmatic; and the variety of villains and semi-villains is adequate.
atlantic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Third entry in the Benjamin Weaver series. Mr. Liss weaves again an historical tapestry of espionage and intrigue in 18th century London. Moves along nicely and keeps you reading until the end. Kudos for the historical details and atmosphere.
Bodenedelstahltx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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
DWWilkin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Having got this book to review, I had to acquire the previous two books as this is the third and become acquainted with our hero... There is a trend with our hero to not have his life in his own hands. Here more than any other time we see blackmail at the root of his problems. We also see the writer use a device, now all too obvious of not beginning his story at the beginning. In each instance we have a chapter or more where we have to delve back in time by some days or weeks to find where the story begins. We learn of life always through the first person, and perhaps that we have now a series, we will always be limited to this view. Certainly in a mystery, the first person guides us in what facts we know. The character whose eyes we share does not know any more or less than we. We also see London, a rather decrepit London through our heroes eyes. We seem to have come across a London that has gone from tolerable 100 years before when Shakespeare and Elizabeth lived to a nightmarish place. Perhaps a reason we don't have many encounters of early Georgian mysteries.What troubles is that this book is not as strong as the previous two. There economics ruled to such an extant that the complexities while made understandable where sinuous enough that they were hard to unravel. Here, Weaver our hero, once again thrown about by more powerful forces, is clear never to be his own man and by the end of the tale we can see where the author wants to take us. Move over James Bond, your Georgian predecessor is upon the scene.Yes as the tale continues, we see that the author would like us to find a home for his secret agent man... Oh no. Not another one. How many good series get ruined by making everyone work for the Crown? Let us have an honest series, our thieftaker is strong enough to do his work without being mixed up with the affairs of a nation. Now can Liss deliver and find another economic concept as compelling as we had in his first two novels? Or even better, the Coffee Trader which I believe bests this also. Where Liss elevated above others is that he has the ability to grasp an economic plot device and marry it to the times and then weave the plight of the Jew in to the mix. Here, aside from a very few scenes, the need for our hero to even have been a Jew is sadly lacking. He could have been an Irish man.Their is a last quibble also, as what is surely to be his next benefactor/nemesis, the crown, ends up knowing a fact that the three others who know (all from the second book) would not wish to reveal. So read it because you like Liss and the series, but don't look to read this on its own. For that, it is only better than average, not great.
Bookmarque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ben Weaver as spy more than theiftaker this time out. Because Weaver isn¿t adept at spycraft, we don¿t get a lot of it which would have been fun, but completely inappropriate. Good story (albeit sometimes oversimplified) with plenty of suspects, allies and villains. Support from Elias and Uncle Miguel. Only a brief appearance of Miriam, thankfully. I think Weaver is finally over her. Am intrigued by Celia Glade and hope we see her again even though she is a source of tension between Ben and Elias.The beginning of the novel almost made me want to put it aside though. Emotional blackmail is never a good technique to keep me interested. I felt that the description of Ben¿s own manipulation into action was used to the same purpose towards me as a reader. It was very uncomfortable for me and I suppose effective at creating empathy for Weaver, but I still didn¿t like it.I also felt that our hero was less capable in this outing. His wherewithal seems to have vanished. During the whole course of events he never gets the best of his enemies (even momentarily) and it let the wind out of the sails of emotional payoff for me. He makes some attempts to go around his tormenters and find out the truth, but it never seems to get anywhere and in the end, when he does get to switch some documents, it seems perfunctory and without import. Neither the recipient of the windfall nor the entity deprived of it is aware of exactly what has happened and that certainly makes Weaver¿s actions seem trivial. There is a lot of social commentary, most of it as descriptive detail or minor plot points and players. The corruptibility of ¿company men¿, the corrupt nature of the company itself, the crime, poverty and filth in the streets, the plight of the working man; all wielded with expertness and made all the more engaging because nothing has really changed in England or, indeed, the world. It seems to be a case for government oversight in commercial business, especially business so closely tied to a country¿s overall GNP. But how to protect the individual worker who is a mere wheat grain caught in the mill that is both entities; the company and the government acting in unison to snuff invention for the continuation of the monopoly which is the mainstay of the country¿s wealth. The invention itself is more of a MacGuffin than a real plot point however and it is the spirit of invention that is really the star.This was an ARC, however it looked like a finished product and unfortunately I spotted two errors; page 10 the use of deserts when clearly desserts was meant, and on page 73 the writer meant quilts but the word used is quits. Kind of funny that last one, a character being huddled under a pile of quits.
viking2917 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Devil's Company is the latest from David Liss. It's 1722 in London and Benjamin Weaver is being blackmailed. Weaver is equal parts James Bond and Flashman (George Macdonald Fraser's lovable scoundrel). The first sentence of the novel lets you know who you are dealing with: "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.¿The first chapter hooks you very quickly ¿ Liss deftly sketches Benjamin, and the rather interesting situation he¿s found himself in. Benjamin is involved in a double (or is it a triple?) cross, at gambling, in disguise: ¿...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 who is more invisible than that?¿.A very James Bond-like opening sequence ¿ good fun, exciting, and mostly useful to propel you into the novel.Weaver manages to get himself blackmailed into spying on the East India Company, which he finds not-too-distasteful as he thinks little of the Company. In fact although The Devil¿s Company is fundamentally an historical adventure/mystery, throughout the novel is there is an interesting undercurrent of philosophizing about the dangers of both big government and big business: ¿What?¿ Elias barked. ¿Give it to the Company? Have you not understood how monstrous it is?¿ (to find out what ¿it¿ is, you¿ll have to read the book). ¿Of course I do, but these companies are born to be monstrous. We cannot ask them to not be what they are. Ellershaw once said that government is not the solution to problems of business, it is the problem of business. In that he was wrong. The company is a monster, and it is for Parliament to decide the size and shape of its cage¿¿The atmosphere of 18th century London is well rendered, and the period language that Liss employs is quite enjoyable ¿ it consistently adds flavor without being overbearing or hard to parse, as is sometimes the case, with, for example, Patrick O¿Brian¿s works. The mystery of who precisely is blackmailing Weaver into stealing & spying, and why, unfolds gradually, with many interesting characters making their appearance, and with a variety of plot twists and turns. The Devil¿s Company is my first exposure to David Liss (and Benjamin Weaver); The Devil¿s Company makes me want to have more. It¿s tightly plotted and moves along quickly, and is mildly educational in addition. A great summer read.(Received through the wonderful LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program)
cuicocha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Once again David Liss has put together a well researched historical novel that carries the reader into a tale of well defined characters, twisting mystery, and the feeling that the author is having a great time spinning his tale.Domestic and international intrigue bind this tightly scripted story of a man caught, with friends and family, in the clutches of debt and the manipulators of that debt. and made to serve masters out to destroy British interests in the Indies.Benjamin Weaver, the protagonist, reaches a not completely satisfactory end to his adventure which, in turn, sets up the good possibility for further adventures for the former pugilist. Government service, business dealings, and romance may be in this character's future!
EdGoldberg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
David Liss and Benjamin Weaver are at it again. Coerced into serving a master he distains, Benjamin Weaver finds himself involved in subterfuge, adventure and mayhem. He pits himself agains Mr. Cobb, who is unknown in British circles and who hires him by buying up the debt of Benjamin's friends and threatening to call the debt. He also works for Mr. Ellershaw, a principal of the East India Company. Are these two enterprises at cross purposes?Liss does a wonderful job of describing 18th Century England, and also this prose at not necessarily of that century, they are close enough to give the reader a flavor. While LIss' description of many things financial of the time perplexes me, his books still have a huge appeal and I can't wait until a new one arrives.I highly recommend all of the Benjamin Weaver books, A Conspiracy of Paper and A Spectacle of Corruption, as well as The Coffee Trader, a non-Weaver book.
mdtocci on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the second David Liss book that I've received through the ER program, and this one was even better than The Whiskey Rebels. The book is the third in a series which revolve around a Jewish ex-boxer, Benjamin Weaver, who lives in London in the early 18th century. All of the books in the series (and most of Liss' books) involve some of the seamier sides of the financial system in the 18th century, and in this book the focus is the East India Company. The issues tackled in the book from nationalism, protectionism, to government corruption indicate that some things never change. Although this book is the 3rd in a series, reading the first two isn't necessary to enjoy this book, but I do highly recommend reading the first two also, as well as The Coffee Trader.
Kasthu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Devil¿s Company is the fourth Benjamin Weaver novel; this time, it¿s 1722, and Weaver must take on one of the world¿s largest corporations: the East India Company. Hired (though that¿s too mile a term) by a dangerous man named Jerome Cobb, he must infiltrate the Company to steal secret documents. What happens, however, is a complicated series of treachery and deceptions¿some of them at Benjamin Weaver¿s expense. This is the fifth novel I¿ve read by David Liss, and I¿d definitely say that his Benjamin Weaver books are much stronger than his stand-alone book, The Whiskey Rebels. Weaver, while not sympathetic or sometimes even likable, is a compelling character. One thing you always know will happen in a book in which he¿s featured is that he¿ll get double-crossed at some point, and The Devil¿s Company is no exception. Liss excels at description, too, and I enjoyed his depiction of 1722 London.The mystery itself however, is a bit predictable, and the disguises don¿t always hide people¿s identities all that well. Also, I was a little frustrated by Absalom Pepper¿s cotton machine mentioned in the book; it¿s never actually described, so that it would seem more real. The author bites off a lot in writing about the East India Company, and I wish he had described it more in this book. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the characters and most of the story. Weaver has a biting, sarcastic wit, and he had me laughing at many places in the novel; he¿s is the reason why I keep turning back to this series.
Unreachableshelf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another great addition to the Benjamin Weaver series. The Devil's Company is fast paced yet full of historical detail. The twists just keep coming, yet it all ties together neatly at the end.
cdeuker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well written mystery about the British East India Company and its monopoly on silk and the silk trade. Lots of convoluted plot twists, not all of which are successful, but vastly entertaining. Characters include a bigamist (or octomist +), a French spy/Jewish immigrant/British agent, and our hero--an ex-boxer with a streak of cruelty and a streak of Robin Hood. The only annoying thing was the author's tendency to be politically correct (gay rights, women's rights) and to insert 20th century phrasing into working conditions into his character's mouths. Still, well worth reading--and a book of exceptionally interesting vocabulary.