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The Coffee Trader [Paperback]

David Liss
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.99
Price: 7.69 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

6 Mar 2003

Amsterdam in the 1690s - a boom town with Europe's biggest stock exchange and traders who will stop at nothing to get even richer.

Lienzo, a Portugese Jew, stumbles across a new commodity - coffee - which, if he plays his cards right, will make him the richest man in Holland. But others stand in his way - rival traders who do all in their power to confuse the exchange and scupper his plans, his brother who is jealous of his financial wizardry and even his brother's beautiful wife who both tempts and spurns him in equal measure.

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The Coffee Trader + Conspiracy of Paper + The Devil's Company (Random House Reader's Circle)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; First British Edition edition (6 Mar 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349115001
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349115009
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 161,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Liss has again produced a compelling complex and well-constructed tale... David Liss is a writer to look out for. (HISTORICAL NOVELS REVIEW)

This engrossing book isn't short but, even so, you'll be tempted to read it in one sitting. (MORNING STAR)

There are twists and turns aplenty as the plot thickens and moves towards an unexpected conclusion. (GOOD BOOK GUIDE)

THE COFFEE TRADER is an absorbing and suspenseful tale of risk and revenge. As stimulating as its subject. (LIVERPOOL DAILY POST)

Book Description

* An original financial thriller set in 17th century Amsterdam

* This is a rich and satisfying second novel from the Edgar Award winner.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sip and Savour! 8 May 2003
By A Customer
A wonderful portrayal of late 17th Century Amsterdam, and particularly the day-to-day life of our central character - a Jew who has escaped the threat of living under the Inquisition in Portugal to settle in Amsterdam working as a trader on the exchange.
The author does an incredible job of sucking you into the world within his book. When he describes the taste, smell and even touch of this new commodity 'coffee', my mouth starts to water! When the central characer is bursting for a pee, you're soon bursting yourself, and when the author builds up tension between characters, be it in conflict or forbidden intimacy, you feel like you're there in the thick of it.
Really enjoyed this, and would recommend it to anyone with a taste for coffee or good reading!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
'The Coffee Trader' follows the fortunes of Miguel, a Portugese Jew living in Amsterdam, as he seeks to make a killing on the fledgling European bourses. David Liss's second novel has much to recommend it, including a skillful recreation of both time and place in the Amsterdam of 1659: the reader can really feel the water flooding into Miguel's basement; the brawls in divey pubs; the hurly burly of the stock market and the abominable conditions of the Rasphuis prison. Clearly, Liss has a healthy respect for the tolerance, ingenuity and application of the citizenry of the United Provinces of the time - qualities that arguably persist today in modern-day Netherlands.
'The Coffee Trader' contains interesting detailed information regarding the practice of Judaism at the time, both generally within Western Europe and particularly in Lisbon and Amsterdam. Miguel lived in Lisbon as a Secret Jew, ostensibly practicing the state faith of Catholicism and fleeing Portugal as the talons of the Inquisition drew uncomfortably near. Most interestingly, the bride of Miguel's brother Daniel, Hannah, only discovered her Jewish identity on the eve of her wedding, was kept deliberately ignorant of the tenets of her faith by the menfolk, and as a consequence worshipped secretly as a Catholic in her new home of Amsterdam. Despite the comparative tolerance by Dutch authorities towards Jews, Amsterdam's Jewish faithful needed to be wary that their behaviour did not violate interpretations of the Torah as determined by the Ma'amad, the committee of Jews that have the power to expel Jews from participation in religious and social activities associated with Judaism in Amsterdam.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Swamp Turning Into a Swan 13 July 2004
It is amazing that a scoundrel like Migue Lienzo should be the main character of The Coffee Trader. After all, he frequently visits hookers, he drinks, he gambles (well, on the Amsterdam stock market), he brings people to their ruin and plays political games with a fever.
Why, then, should Miguel be such an appealing character, appearing to be benign and religious? Possibly the fact that he has been chased from Portugal as a Secret Jew has something to do with it. Or the fact that, currently, he is down on his luck and living in his brother's basement, which is flooded every day by the Amsterdam canals, which, in 1659, still had a direct connection to the sea. But most likely, it is because through his eyes, we can see the Amsterdam of three and a half centuries ago, and we can share his wonder at this city coming of age.
The Coffee Trader is a book with many faces and because of that, it makes you yearn for more, of each of them. I never knew there was such a difference between the acceptance of the Jewish religion in Amsterdam as opposed to Portugal or England. Miguel has spent most of his life going to a Catholic church, if only to convince others that he was not a Jew; only to attend secret religious meetings at night, reading the Torah. Possibly even more shocking is the story of Hannah, his brother's wife, who lived as a devout Catholic in Portugal as well. Only on her wedding day was she told that she was, in fact, Jewish, and should now follow the Jewish religion.
As the family now lives in Amsterdam, we watch the city as it grows from a stinking swamp into a lively centre of international trade. Miguel shows us the Bloemenmarkt, the Nieuwe Kerk and the Oude Kerk, Houtgracht, all of which are still landmarks of Amsterdam today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anyone for a latte?.. 23 Aug 2006
Quite simply - loved it. I have read this book twice now, and it was equally good the second time. Not knowing much about the jewish religion, I found the exploration of the jewish way of life fascinating. The character of Miguel Lienzo is extremely likeable. On the face of it he is thoroughly disreputable, but this actually adds to his charm.

I also loved the undercurrent of romance between Miguel and Hannah, which Liss explores intermittently throughout the novel. Understated, but enough to make me yearn for more.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Miguel Lienzo is a Portuguese Jewish merchant in 17th century Amsterdam. In the last couple of months his fortune has taken a turn for the worse, he has lost quite a lot of money and is now heavily in debt and living in the damp cellar of his brother's house. Also, he has a powerful enemy in the merchant Parido, who is also a member of the Ma'amad, a committee that oversees the actions of the Portuguese Jews in order to prevent them from doing harm to the Jewish community. This Parido misuses his position to try and get information to ruin Miguel's trading. And then Miguel gets an offer that is too good to be true: the Dutch widow Geertruid Damhuis invites him to join in a daring scheme to trade in a new commodity, coffee. But all is not as it seems and it takes Miguel quite a while (and a lot of daring investment of money he does not own) to see through all the machinations and come out on top.

The description of 17th century Amsterdam and the position of Jews and merchants is very revealing, but I guess one needs to have a better insight than I have into the intrigues that can be worked out using stocks, options, futures, puts and calls to truly understand the financial wheelings and dealings that go on in the book and that in the end make Miguel's fortune. Also, the characters are rather thin, even the main character Miguel remains quite one-dimensional throughout the book which is a shame, because there are plenty of opportunities to turn this book from an average financial thriller into a more literary novel.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Unconvincing mystery with convoluted plot
All works of fiction are obviously manufactured products, inspired by Man and not by God, but there is just something too prefabricated about this novel as though the author has... Read more
Published 13 months ago by John Fitzpatrick
5.0 out of 5 stars The song remains the same
Down & Out in Manhattan, a New York Tale

Possible Twenty, a Gangster Tale (Tommy Gallagher)

Another of David Liss's awesome page turners which, while on the... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Justin Callahan
5.0 out of 5 stars The Coffee Trader
This was a terrific book, about which I knew nothing before reading. It is compellingly written about a world completely new to me (Dutch life in 1650). Read more
Published 17 months ago by barbara minto
4.0 out of 5 stars ANOTHER WINNER FROM LISS
This man has carved out a wonderful niche, writing very well-researched historical financial crime (yes, some niche!). This one is particularly good. Read more
Published on 9 Feb 2012 by Scribbler
4.0 out of 5 stars Goes well with a cup of coffee
This is an enjoyable novel, especially if you are interested in coffee, early modern markets, Jewry, or the Netherlands - all of which are successfully and evocatively brought to... Read more
Published on 18 Aug 2011 by Jimmy the Hat
3.0 out of 5 stars Trouble brews as coffee makes its entrance...
Meet Miguel Lienzo, a Portuguese Jew charmed by a wealthy and mysterious Dutch widow, Geertruid, who offers him a business partnership in the coffee trade. Read more
Published on 26 July 2009 by I LOVE BOOKS
5.0 out of 5 stars A full flavoured brew
What a fantastic story! This book is well written, and well researched, without bogging you down with too much historical fact. Read more
Published on 31 Dec 2007 by Chasamatazz
4.0 out of 5 stars No need for coffee to keep you awake here
Reading the novel will do... plenty of suspense and action, and written in the colourful style David Liss handles so well. Read more
Published on 21 July 2006 by Didier
3.0 out of 5 stars Sex, lies and coffee beans...
Sex, lies and coffee beans in Golden Age Amsterdam. A page turner with an impressively long bibliography. Read more
Published on 28 Mar 2005 by Rgh1066
5.0 out of 5 stars "This devil's piss is going to make both our fortunes"
In his first novel, "A Conspiracy of Paper", Liss introduced an eclectic character that captured the affection of most readers. Read more
Published on 13 Feb 2005 by Sebastian Fernandez
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