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The Devil's Company by David Liss

Benjamin Weaver, retired prize fighter and now professional thief-taker, is back in action on the streets of 18th-century London. What seemed a simple job—cheating a card cheat—turns nightmarish when Weaver discovers he’s the one who has been rooked in David Liss' The Devil’s Company. The mysterious and wealthy Mr. Jerome Cobb has a very dangerous plan in which Weaver is an essential player. His physical skills, intelligence, connections, and indeed his very character are necessary to make the plan a success.

No one else will do, and in order to secure his cooperation, Cobb and his cronies have drawn a diabolical net around those Weaver holds dear. The Devil's Company referred to in the title is none other than the terrifically wealthy East India Trading Company. Their near monopoly on imports of tea, fabrics, and other luxury items began more than 100 years before this story opens in 1722, and it is this fortress-like institution that Weaver must infiltrate.
 
Although this is the third of Liss’ books featuring Benjamin Weaver (A Spectacle of Corruption and A Conspiracy of Paper), it is not at all necessary to have read the previous books to enjoy this one. Readers are treated not to a dull recitation of facts but a fast-paced thriller which incorporates critical points of history effortlessly into the narrative. Weaver’s character is reminiscent of Robert Downey, Jr.’s recent portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. This is a man who knows his way around some of the seedier streets of old London and is capable of dealing out damage when confronted by his enemies, and he is believable as both the dutiful, Jewish nephew and the good-natured carouser. Liss layers in an intriguing romantic subplot when Weaver meets his match: the lovely and lying Celia Glade.
 
David Liss is extremely accomplished at making the business history of the Western World not just accessible but page-turning by deftly adding in elements of mystery, suspense, and romance. The author’s blog is available online.