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.