Michelle Kung
February 08, 2008 AT 05:00 AM EST

Today?s market troubles would hardly have fazed early 19th century banker-turned-con artist Andrew Dexter, Jr., whose fall from grace is the subject of Jane Kamensky?s meticulously researched history in The Exchange Artist. Ambitious and reckless, Dexter took advantage of the era?s confusing new form of collateral — paper money — and used a pyramid scheme to fund a seven-story Coffee Exchange House in Boston before he was caught and exiled to Canada. Kamensky clearly understands her subject and his era, but her dense prose and in-depth descriptions of the most mundane construction procedures borders on the tedious. B

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