Thursday, July 23, 2009

Julie's Review: The Devil's Company

Summary: In Edgar-winner Liss's enjoyable third thriller to feature the estimable Benjamin Weaver, an 18th-century London thieftaker (after A Spectacle of Corruption and A Conspiracy of Paper), Weaver finds himself working reluctantly for a mysterious gentleman, Jerome Cobb. On Cobb's orders, Weaver takes employment as a security man at the British East India Company's headquarters, where he tries to obtain information about the death of one Absalom Pepper, of whom virtually nothing is known. To keep Weaver in line, Cobb has blackmailed Weaver's friend Moses Franco, close confederate Elias Gordon and his beloved uncle Miguel. As usual, several beautiful women play roles in the complicated plot, which involves industrial spying and the international textile trade. Weaver's two previous adventures could sometimes bog down in arcane financial and political detail, but Liss keeps the suspense at full boil and the action rolling swiftly ahead.

Review: I received David Liss' The Devil's Company from Pump Up Your Book Promotion and I'm glad I did. I seem to be really enjoying historical fiction lately and this book was in that genre. Granted most of mine have been a romantic historical fiction, so this was a nice change to a mystery/thriller historical fiction. The main character is Benjamin Weaver, and I liked him. What I liked the most about him was that he was neither a good guy or a bad guy wholly; he was both. He's hired by the mysterious Mr. Cobb to retrieve papers from Britain's largest company, East India House. Well, Mr. Weaver is a master thief and does his job well but that's not all that Mr. Cobb wants and he holds Weaver's friends and relatives ransom in order to enlist Weaver. The story really takes off from there with Weaver playing many different parts while trying to cover his back and get the ransom off of his friends and family.

It's an interesting book about the creation of the "modern day" corporation. The Court of Proprietors is equivalent to today's Board of Directors. They are supposed to have the company's best interest at heart but what do the individuals hope to gain as well. There are two passages that stick out for me:

Ellershaw to Weaver regarding the business of East India Company:
"You have been in my employ not ten minutes, and you have already discovered the great secret of the India cloth trade at home: give your goods away to a few fashionable people who have the power to set trends, and the trend is set. The new style is written of in the papers and the monthlies, and soon the provinces hear of them, and they clamor for our cloths. They beg us-beg us, I tell you-to sell our goods for whatever price we care to name." (page 102)

To me this is still true in today's society. Who gets the fashion off the runways, the celebrities. They could easily pay for it but they don't so that the designers can get free publicity.

The next passage speaks to the age old battle - Corporations vs. Government.
"A world controlled by those who care only for the acquisition and profit must be a world of terrors indeed. Companies concern themselves only with how much money they can make. Governments at least look after the well-being of all-the poor, the unfortunate and even the laborers, whose work must be cultivated, not exploited." "The wealth of the nation is the greater good, sir, the only greater good. And when the merchants and industrious men of the nation are wealthy, then those blessings will disseminate to all who live in the land." (page 137)

This is a debate that continues to this day. Who helps the people more..government or corporations?

The book has a lot of great twists at the end of the book. Things really get flipped upside down, which was great. I love it when authors do that, you think you have it figured out and than WHAM, something comes out of the blue. The book did lag in parts and sometimes my interest waned but Mr. Liss would write something else to pull me back in.

Any fan of historical fiction, spy novels and a good mystery will enjoy The Devil's Company: A Novel. I will definitely be checking out his other books. I'm even passing this one on to my dad and will recommend that my step-dad buy it on Kindle.

Final Take: 3.75/5


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