Chris Nashawaty
March 26, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

A Spectacle of Corruption

Current Status
In Season
David Liss

We gave it a B+

Writing a sequel may seem easy, but creating a literary hero worthy of one is another matter. In 2000’s critically acclaimed A Conspiracy of Paper, Liss introduced Benjamin Weaver, a Jewish boxer-turned-gumshoe who sleuthed and slugged his way through 18th-century London. Like Sam Spade in a powdered wig, Weaver deliciously dispensed bon mots and bare-knuckle justice to a cabal of stock-market swindlers. Three years later, on the eve of a crooked national election between the Whigs and Tories, Weaver is framed for murder and must put the screws to the city’s cutpurses and jackanapes to prove his innocence. Liss conjures musty alehouses and grimy back alleys so vividly you can smell the yeast and urine. But as with many literary second helpings, there’s a whiff of familiarity, too.

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