Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Conspiracy of Paper - David Liss

Picked this up in the used bookstore's $3.00 and less table for my trip to North Carolina.  It met several criteria:
1) not too heavy (I was flying)
2) an award winner (someone thought it was worth reading)
3) about finance (fiction and finance, what a great combo)

The author reveals in an interview in the Reader's Notes (a section that seems to be in most books these days, for reading groups that can't come up with their own intelligent sounding questions) that he wrote this while pursuing his doctorate at Columbia.  He figured he couldn't make a living writing fiction so he thought to teach and entered graduate school.  The book came out of his research on the beginning of the modern stock market in the 1700's in London.

It's the story of a Jewish fighter who deserted his family to make his own way on the streets of London. When he's injured he turns to "debt collection" meaning he uses almost any means necessary to see his customers have the value owed them returned promptly.  He gets hired to research the death of a "stock-jobber" a man who trades in stocks in Exchange Alley.  As his own father was both a stock-jobber and killed in a similarly mysterious manner, he sets out to solve both murders.

I enjoyed the mystery, which I'm usually not fond of because I thought I'd figured it out and was suprised when I hadn't.  I really liked the explanation of how a market is made in stocks and how probability applies to stock trading as well as mystery solving.

It's written somewhat in the language of the time so there is a wealth of new words to savor.  The descriptions of clothing and taverns, privileged and poor are rich and detailed.  I plan to seek out more from this author.

Published: 2000  Read: July 2014  Genre: Fiction/Mystery

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