Benjamin Weaver, the quick-witted pugilist turned private investigator, returns in David Liss’s sequel to the Edgar Award–winning novel, A Conspiracy of Paper.
“[A] wonderful book . . . every bit as good as [Liss’s] remarkable debut . . . easily one of the year’s best.”—The Boston Globe
Moments after his conviction for a murder he did not commit, at a trial presided over by a judge determined to find him guilty, Benjamin Weaver is accosted by a stranger who cunningly slips a lockpick and a file into his hands. In an instant he understands two things: Someone wants him to hang—and another equally mysterious agent is determined to see him free. After a daring escape from eighteenth-century London’s most notorious prison, Weaver must face another challenge: to prove himself innocent when the corrupt courts have shown they care nothing for justice. Unable to show his face in public, Weaver pursues his inquiry disguised as a wealthy merchant seeking to involve himself in the contentious world of politics. Desperately navigating a labyrinth of schemers, crime lords, assassins, and spies, Weaver learns that in an election year, little is what it seems and the truth comes at a staggeringly high cost.
Praise for A Spectacle of Corruption
“[A] rousing sequel of historical, intellectual suspense. ”—San Antonio Express-News
“Liss is a superb writer who evokes the squalor of London with Hogarthian gusto.”—People
“In Benjamin Weaver, Mr. Liss has created a multifaceted character and a wonderful narrator.”—The New York Sun
This sequel to Liss's Edgar Award winning A Conspiracy of Paper (2000) brings back ex-pugilist Benjamin Weaver and his 18th-century London environs in all their squalid glory. Benjamin has become a "thieftaker," a sort of bounty hunter/private eye, and is investigating the simple case of a threatening letter when he is caught up in a riot, accused of murder and sentenced to hang. After a gutsy escape, he sets about unraveling the mystery of who framed him and why. Donning the disguise of a wealthy coffee planter from Jamaica, Benjamin infiltrates the upper classes, where he encounters a plot centering on a hotly contested House of Commons election. There is much explanation (perhaps too much) of the history and philosophies of the Whig, Tory and Jacobite parties, but this is nicely balanced with Benjamin's forays into London's underbelly, where he has his way with the ladies and dodges dangerous louts looking to kill him. The real fun is the re-creation of the streets of London ("He fell into the alley's filth the kennel of emptied chamber pots, bits of dead dogs gnawed on by hungry rats, apple cores and oyster shells") and the colorful denizens thereof. Many hours are spent in innumerable coffeehouses, with Benjamin and company imbibing coffee, chocolate, ale, wine and that great destroyer of the poor, rotgut gin, and employing such useful swear words as "shitten stick," "arse pot" and "bum firking." Mystery and mainstream readers with a taste for gritty historical fiction will relish Liss's glorious dialogue, lively rogues, fascinating setting and indomitable hero.