The Coffee Trader by David Liss

Mar 5, 2010

Coffee Trader by David LissA new, highly desirable, carefully controlled commodity is about to be introduced to Europe’s markets. Miquel Lienzo is a trader down on his luck, who believes this new gold –“coffee”- could re-establish his credibility – if he can find the funds necessary to carry out an audacious plan. But he must work carefully – he is a Portuguese Jew in 17th century Amsterdam, in cahoots with a Gentile woman of uncertain character and under the surveillance of the less-than-benevolent Ma’amad, the governing council of the Jewish community.

A thoroughly enjoyable historical read – evenly-paced, suspenseful enough to carry the story forward, believable characters, plenty of hidden agendas, surprising plot twists -- set in 17 Century Amsterdam. And that is what I liked best – the setting, and the opportunity to experience the immigrant Jewish community, just barely tolerated by the Dutch government, poking its finger in the eye of the Spanish & Portuguese Inquisitors. Author Liss uses the reminiscences of an outcast to provide background info on the cast of characters; on life as a Jew of the Diaspora; on the Ma’amad, the powerful council who govern the Jewish community (to keep as low a profile as possible, so as to not draw unfavorable attention). Lots of history – trade and finance, political, religious --- with some surprisingly contemporary shenanigans in the marketplace. And maybe I grasp commodity trading just a little better now...

Written by Kathy B.


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