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Benjamin Weaver is awaiting death in Newgate gaol. Mysteriously convicted for a murder he didn’t commit by a judge determined to see him hang, he is suddenly—and equally mysteriously—offered the means to escape. What, you may well ask, is going on? It’s a question Weaver asks of himself as he slinks out into the London night on a mission to clear his name. In doing so, he s Benjamin Weaver is awaiting death in Newgate gaol. Mysteriously convicted for a murder he didn’t commit by a judge determined to see him hang, he is suddenly—and equally mysteriously—offered the means to escape. What, you may well ask, is going on? It’s a question Weaver asks of himself as he slinks out into the London night on a mission to clear his name. In doing so, he steps straight into a labyrinthine plot that weaves, like Benjamin, across eighteenth century London. For the conspiracy against him is part of a grimmer and gaudier picture: one that encompasses double-dealings and dockworkers, the extorting of a priest—and a looming election with the potential to spark a revolution and topple the monarchy. Handily, Weaver is a private investigator. He’s also an ex-pugilist, which is also a good thing when it comes to punching his weight in the ‘polite’ society of plotters and politicians, power-brokers, crime lords, assassins and spies. At the apex of which sits, rather precariously, a recent import from Hanover: the king.


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Benjamin Weaver is awaiting death in Newgate gaol. Mysteriously convicted for a murder he didn’t commit by a judge determined to see him hang, he is suddenly—and equally mysteriously—offered the means to escape. What, you may well ask, is going on? It’s a question Weaver asks of himself as he slinks out into the London night on a mission to clear his name. In doing so, he s Benjamin Weaver is awaiting death in Newgate gaol. Mysteriously convicted for a murder he didn’t commit by a judge determined to see him hang, he is suddenly—and equally mysteriously—offered the means to escape. What, you may well ask, is going on? It’s a question Weaver asks of himself as he slinks out into the London night on a mission to clear his name. In doing so, he steps straight into a labyrinthine plot that weaves, like Benjamin, across eighteenth century London. For the conspiracy against him is part of a grimmer and gaudier picture: one that encompasses double-dealings and dockworkers, the extorting of a priest—and a looming election with the potential to spark a revolution and topple the monarchy. Handily, Weaver is a private investigator. He’s also an ex-pugilist, which is also a good thing when it comes to punching his weight in the ‘polite’ society of plotters and politicians, power-brokers, crime lords, assassins and spies. At the apex of which sits, rather precariously, a recent import from Hanover: the king.

30 review for A Spectacle of Corruption

  1. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 4* of five The Publisher Says: Moments after his conviction for a murder he did not commit, at a trial presided over by a judge determined to find him guilty, Benjamin Weaver is accosted by a stranger who cunningly slips a lockpick and a file into his hands. In an instant he understands two things: Someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to see him condemned to hang--and another equally mysterious agent is determined to see him free. So begins A Spectacle of Corruption, which heralds Rating: 4* of five The Publisher Says: Moments after his conviction for a murder he did not commit, at a trial presided over by a judge determined to find him guilty, Benjamin Weaver is accosted by a stranger who cunningly slips a lockpick and a file into his hands. In an instant he understands two things: Someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to see him condemned to hang--and another equally mysterious agent is determined to see him free. So begins A Spectacle of Corruption, which heralds the return of Benjamin Weaver, the hero of A Conspiracy of Paper. After a daring escape from eighteenth-century London's most notorious prison, Weaver must face another challenge: how to prove himself innocent of a crime when the corrupt courts have already shown they want only to see him hang. To discover the truth and clear his name, he will have to understand the motivations behind a secret scheme to extort a priest, uncover double-dealings in the unrest among London's dockworkers, and expose the conspiracy that links the plot against him to the looming national election--an election with the potential to spark a revolution and topple the monarchy. Unable to show his face in public, Weaver pursues his inquiry in the guise of a wealthy merchant who seeks to involve himself in the political scene. But he soon finds that the world of polite society and politics is filled with schemers and plotters, men who pursue riches and power--and those who seek to return the son of the deposed king to the throne. Desperately navigating a labyrinth of politicians, crime lords, assassins, and spies, Weaver learns that, in an election year, little is what it seems and the truth comes at a staggeringly high cost. Once again, acclaimed author David Liss combines historical erudition with mystery, complex characterization, and a captivating sense of humor. A Spectacle of Corruption offers insight into our own world of political scheming, and it firmly establishes David Liss as one of the best writers of intellectual suspense at work today. My Review: Last time we saw the Lion of Judah, aka Benjamin Weaver (né Lienzo), he had brought a species of justice to some victims of the South Sea Bubble. Now he's standing in the dock, convicted of a murder he didn't commit and facing the death penalty. Well, there's nothing like making the stakes obvious from the get-go: Fail to solve the crime you've been convicted of and die; solve the crime and bring the political system of your homeland to its knees. Drama for *days*! And well-done drama, if a bit crowded. Inevitably, setting stakes this high means that some smaller areas of interest (eg, the "romance") don't come to satisfying fruition. But there is more than enough good stuff here to make the less successful moments less important than the overall tale's pleasures. It's very satisfying to see a man of honor operating in that cesspit of dishonor that has always been, and seems as if it will always be, political action. What I enjoy most about Liss's historical fiction is that it is obvious to me that he roots the action in fact while still making a cracking good yarn. He sees history as "his story," as the college-freshman joke went. And that's how I got interested in history, and it's why I find satisfaction in reading David Liss's books. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Barb

    I loved this book, it was so... exciting, interesting, clever, relevant and laugh out loud funny! In fact I almost choked a few times I laughed so hard. This is the second installment of the fictional memoir from the life and times of Benjamin Weaver. I recommend reading his accounts in the order they are presented; A Conspiracy of Paper, A Spectacle of Corruption. Weaver is a charming, handsome, capable man of action and former pugilist who makes an honest living as a thief-taker, debt-collecto I loved this book, it was so... exciting, interesting, clever, relevant and laugh out loud funny! In fact I almost choked a few times I laughed so hard. This is the second installment of the fictional memoir from the life and times of Benjamin Weaver. I recommend reading his accounts in the order they are presented; A Conspiracy of Paper, A Spectacle of Corruption. Weaver is a charming, handsome, capable man of action and former pugilist who makes an honest living as a thief-taker, debt-collector and sometimes body guard. In this adventure Weaver has been found guilty of murder and sentenced to hang to death. He is innocent of the crime and determined to find out who framed him and why. The backdrop to his story is London circa 1722 on the eve of the first Parliamentary election since King George took the throne. Thief-Taker General Jonathan Wild plays a part in this story and there are references to Jack Sheppard the notorious thief who escaped prison four times. (Another good book featuring Wild and Sheppard is 'The Thief Taker: Memoirs of a Bow Street Runner' by T. F. Banks.) The corruption and greed of the day is intricately woven into Weaver's story. A love interest and past heart break also play a part in this account and I think the story is all the richer for it. So much of the historical politics in this book mirror our politics today. I'm always so surprised by the fact that so many things have remained unchanged even after hundreds of years...Greed and the lust for power are still such powerful motivators. Did I already say that I love Ben Weaver? Did I mention before that I hope this becomes a series? Well I do. And the end of this book certainly feels like it will be. If any of you know for sure if there will be another story from Ben Weaver please let me know with a comment. Mr. Liss you should be busy writing right NOW! :0)

  3. 4 out of 5

    AdiTurbo

    A gripping and most engrossing sequel to the tales of Benjamin Weaver, Portuguese Jew-come-thief taker in 18th century England. This one sheds light on the political processes and undercurrents of the time, which may not be what you had in mind when thinking of Britain as the birthplace of modern democracy, though many things may strike you as quite similar to what we are experiencing in the Western world today. Great characters and well-paced plot make this novel even better than its predecesso A gripping and most engrossing sequel to the tales of Benjamin Weaver, Portuguese Jew-come-thief taker in 18th century England. This one sheds light on the political processes and undercurrents of the time, which may not be what you had in mind when thinking of Britain as the birthplace of modern democracy, though many things may strike you as quite similar to what we are experiencing in the Western world today. Great characters and well-paced plot make this novel even better than its predecessor. Moved right on to the third installment.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    David Liss is just good at informing while telling a story. This is the third book I've read of his and each time I put his books down I think to myself, "Now that was a good book." And then, about 3 days later, I think to myself, "I actually learned stuffs from that read." In this case, I learned that elections have always had an ocean of hidden agendas simmering underneath them. I am currently vacillating between the horrifics and the comforts behind that realization. SPOILERS AHOY AHOY Furtherm David Liss is just good at informing while telling a story. This is the third book I've read of his and each time I put his books down I think to myself, "Now that was a good book." And then, about 3 days later, I think to myself, "I actually learned stuffs from that read." In this case, I learned that elections have always had an ocean of hidden agendas simmering underneath them. I am currently vacillating between the horrifics and the comforts behind that realization. SPOILERS AHOY AHOY Furthermore, I learned there were two and a half political parties in England in the 17th century. You know when you were sitting in your American Government class, there was that 2 week span where the terms 'Tory' and 'Whig' were thrown around. I finally get what they mean, like in the context of people living in that time. So, besides all this knowledge stuff, the mystery that unfolds is interesting. The main character, Benjamin Weaver, is solid in his role as the dashing and intelligent sleuth. The villains are sufficiently evil, but in a human way...they mostly think their way is the best way as well. My one iffy point is I don't buy Ms. Dogmill's choices. She tells Weaver there is no chance of a relationship. She tells Weaver she is accepting of her brother's faults and stands by him. She risks sexual assault to canvass for her brother's political effigy to ensure he gets his way. Then she decides to be a major cog in Weaver's plan to take her brother down?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    Quite good, though perhaps not as good as the previous one in the series. The 'Jewish' angle is a lot less pronounced, which I guess is fine, but it was something I was interested in in the first book. The account of the 1722 election is fascinating and, I am supposing, well researched. I was only bothered by three places where the author used highly anachronistic language. In general, Liss does not reproduce 18th century English full-on, but he does a good job of giving a flavor of it. But he h Quite good, though perhaps not as good as the previous one in the series. The 'Jewish' angle is a lot less pronounced, which I guess is fine, but it was something I was interested in in the first book. The account of the 1722 election is fascinating and, I am supposing, well researched. I was only bothered by three places where the author used highly anachronistic language. In general, Liss does not reproduce 18th century English full-on, but he does a good job of giving a flavor of it. But he has one character ask another about the underlying "political ideology" of the Whig party. The terms "ideology" did not arise until the very end of the 18th century, in France, and then it had a somewhat different meaning from its contemporary one. Elsewhere, talking of labor combinations, someone describes them as having "communist" ideas. I'm pretty sure that term didn't arise until the beginning of the 19th century. And finally, someone describes a difference of opinion as merely "semantic." That word, I believe, was not coined until the end of the 19th century. For some reason, these terms disturbed me and made me a little wary, though of course they need not indicate anything serious in the actual content of the work.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    This was an exciting, fun read. An interesting look into what it might have been like in London in the 18th century. Employing the classic genre move of having the detective hero solve the crime in order to exonerate himself, we get a crash course in English politics and law of the time. Liss does a good job of capturing the language and the style of the times (or at least appearing to--I am not an expert in 18th century England and so I am sure he doesn't get it all correct. But it has the feel This was an exciting, fun read. An interesting look into what it might have been like in London in the 18th century. Employing the classic genre move of having the detective hero solve the crime in order to exonerate himself, we get a crash course in English politics and law of the time. Liss does a good job of capturing the language and the style of the times (or at least appearing to--I am not an expert in 18th century England and so I am sure he doesn't get it all correct. But it has the feel of something authentic). The ending was a bit too quick and things got tidied up too conveneniently, but otherwise the plot was well done--it was not predicatable or obvious. The characters were intriguing and fun.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Georgia Carvalho

    This is what great historical fiction should be like, rich with details, well developed characters and great integration of the historical background with the plot. It is a pleasure to read David Liss's books. I hope there will be more than three books in the Benjamin Weaver series because I can't get enough. This is what great historical fiction should be like, rich with details, well developed characters and great integration of the historical background with the plot. It is a pleasure to read David Liss's books. I hope there will be more than three books in the Benjamin Weaver series because I can't get enough.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Barry

    Not as good as A Conspiracy of Paper, or Day of Atonement, but still enjoyable. It was especially fascinating to learn about the bizarre way in which parliamentary elections were carried out in 18th century England.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Shari

    A Spectacle of Corruption is a story of the chaos that follows an election in 18th century England - and right smack in the middle of it is Benjamin Weaver, an ex-pugilist private investigator, who got pulled in in the mess by being accused of murder. Liss’s world and character building in this novel is simply captivating. The author’s use of language is just beautiful, helping put the reader quite at home in the setting. The election in question is filled with intrigues, political and social, b A Spectacle of Corruption is a story of the chaos that follows an election in 18th century England - and right smack in the middle of it is Benjamin Weaver, an ex-pugilist private investigator, who got pulled in in the mess by being accused of murder. Liss’s world and character building in this novel is simply captivating. The author’s use of language is just beautiful, helping put the reader quite at home in the setting. The election in question is filled with intrigues, political and social, between the Whigs and the Tories with the Jacobites’ plotting mixed in to bring back the deposed monarchy of Charles II. Liss created a grim and turbulent London in this novel wherein Weaver, an apt name, weaved his way to find who framed him and avenge his innocence. Weaver’s search is not easy. He finds the extent of corruption and mean plotting in both warring parties in full display in and out of their campaigning. Everything he sees and discovers is what the title suggests - a spectacle - and like anyone who sees it, Weaver is a spectator caught in the drama, literally and figuratively. Liss gives a convincing world in this story. It was fascinating to learn about elections in Weaver’s time and one would easily see that in the hundreds of years that have passed very little has changed in how elections are conducted. Like in his other novel, The Coffee Trader, Liss closed the story with a touch of sadness. Weaver will emerge not wholly triumphant in his mission. He clears his name, but loses something equally important to him in return.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jody

    A Spectacle of Corruption is a rare wonder of a book that educates, entertains, and tugs the heartstrings. Set in 1722 London against the backdrop of the first general election since the crowning of George I, this is the second installment of the story of Benjamin Weaver, Jewish ex-pugilist private investigator. David Liss is a master of characterization, creating complicated, compelling protagonists, and Weaver is no exception with his appealing combination of daring, determination, dry humor, A Spectacle of Corruption is a rare wonder of a book that educates, entertains, and tugs the heartstrings. Set in 1722 London against the backdrop of the first general election since the crowning of George I, this is the second installment of the story of Benjamin Weaver, Jewish ex-pugilist private investigator. David Liss is a master of characterization, creating complicated, compelling protagonists, and Weaver is no exception with his appealing combination of daring, determination, dry humor, and (mostly) controlled violence. Weaver’s history allows him to move within many levels of London’s society, but he fully belongs to none of them, and this loneliness underscores the story and the series. In this book, Weaver is accused and convicted of murder, and must uncover the true events of the crime in order to exonerate himself. As Weaver navigates the chaos and corruption surrounding the political process the reader is educated as well, and David Liss’s deft wording alludes to similarities with the present without ever disrupting the flow of the narrative or taking the reader out of the world he has created. A Spectacle of Corruption had me on the edge of my seat and laughing out loud, and I highly recommend it!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mommalibrarian

    mellower than the earlier books in the sequel. This one imparts fewer facts of Jewish life or 18th century England. The historical information included concerns the election process for parliament which for me was not as dry as the previous tales of finance and markets. This book dwells more on the personalities of the characters of which Benjamin Weaver is again the central one.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Waverly Fitzgerald

    I really enjoyed the first book in this series, A Conspiracy of Paper, so was eager to follow the adventures of Benjamin Weaver, pugilist and private investigator in the early decades of the 18th century. Liss, as in the first book, weaves a complicated tangle for Weaver to resolve, and neatly includes the significant secondary characters as well, along with a few historical personages of note, especially James Stuart, the Pretender. The main focus of the novel revolves around the corruption of I really enjoyed the first book in this series, A Conspiracy of Paper, so was eager to follow the adventures of Benjamin Weaver, pugilist and private investigator in the early decades of the 18th century. Liss, as in the first book, weaves a complicated tangle for Weaver to resolve, and neatly includes the significant secondary characters as well, along with a few historical personages of note, especially James Stuart, the Pretender. The main focus of the novel revolves around the corruption of the election system in England at this time, the way votes were bought and sold, the way violence and propaganda were used to influence voters, so it has a lot of relevance to the upcoming mid-terms elections. And like the previous book, the historical accuracy is amazing. I always learn something I did not know, like a goose pull (ugh!) The novel starts with Weaver in the notorious prison of Newgate, condemned to be hanged for a murder he did not commit, after a trial where several witness are paid to give false testimony and the judge has also clearly been bribed to ignore that. Liss cleverly goes back and forth in time to show us the events that led up to the sentence, and then Weaver breaks out of prison, and in order, to avoid arrest, assumes the identity of a rich merchant from the West Indies which allows us to see another side of Society he did not have access to in the first novel. Told in first person, the language mimic the more ornate language of the 18th century but is still eminently readable. His metaphors reflect the time as well: just a few from pages I dog-eared (a great metaphor by the way): About flimsy houses constructed after the great fire: "the pedestrian passed them at his own rish, for they shed bricks the way a dog sheds fleas." About the face of an angry man: "as red as a Norfolk apple." About the same: "there was something about the way he sat, his muscles gone taut, that made him seem like a barrel of gunpowder on the verge of ignition."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Johanna

    This is the second time I’ve read this book and I enjoyed it just as much now as I did ten years ago. I’m about to read the next two in the series for the first time, so I wanted a reminder of what was going on in the life of Benjamin Weaver, the main character. Liss has created a likable hero, an underdog who is scrupulous and ethical if not always honest. Weaver, a boxer prior to a disabling injury, is a thief taker (bounty hunter) who also retrieves lost and stolen items. He’s a Jew in an era This is the second time I’ve read this book and I enjoyed it just as much now as I did ten years ago. I’m about to read the next two in the series for the first time, so I wanted a reminder of what was going on in the life of Benjamin Weaver, the main character. Liss has created a likable hero, an underdog who is scrupulous and ethical if not always honest. Weaver, a boxer prior to a disabling injury, is a thief taker (bounty hunter) who also retrieves lost and stolen items. He’s a Jew in an era of casual prejudice if not outright persecution, considered dishonest and dirty, a second class citizen at best. In the first book, which highlighted the financial catastrophe when the South Sea bubble burst, Weaver was trying to find out who murdered his father. In this, against a backdrop of political skullduggery, he is convicted of murder and must find out why he’s been falsely accused. Like the Matthew Shardlake Tudor-era series that takes place almost two hundred years earlier, these historical mysteries bring the past to life - and it’s fairly revolting. Piss pots, dead dogs, rotting food, horse dung, rats - the poorer areas of London were so filthy it’s surprising anyone lived to the 20th Century. The research behind the stories is what makes these books such a success. Highly recommended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Redsteve

    Sequel to A Conspiracy of Paper (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4...) based in early 18th Century London. Both books are excellent, both as well researched historical and exciting mystery novels, but where the previous story is set in the world of finance (re: the South Sea Bubble), A Spectacle of Corruption focuses on the rough and tumble world of British politics (and treason as well). While the plot is complicated, it isn't ridiculously elaborate and the history is well done; informative Sequel to A Conspiracy of Paper (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4...) based in early 18th Century London. Both books are excellent, both as well researched historical and exciting mystery novels, but where the previous story is set in the world of finance (re: the South Sea Bubble), A Spectacle of Corruption focuses on the rough and tumble world of British politics (and treason as well). While the plot is complicated, it isn't ridiculously elaborate and the history is well done; informative it the best manner of a historical novel, where the reader absorbs a lot of detail without feeling lectured. The characters' attitudes are true to the period, and the language has the flavor of 18th Century English without being hard to follow. 4 stars.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Reenah

    4.5 stars. I love Benjamin Weaver! I'm also interested in British history in general, and I love the setting of 18th century London. Looking forward to reading the next one! 4.5 stars. I love Benjamin Weaver! I'm also interested in British history in general, and I love the setting of 18th century London. Looking forward to reading the next one!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Peter Clothier

    Quite apart from the Olympic Games, which I have been watching on television, I seem to be finding myself in London a good deal this summer. A few days ago I finished---and wrote about--Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, a historical novel set in 17th century London. Just yesterday, I finished A Spectacle of Corruption, by David Liss, a fine romp through the back alleys and drawing rooms of 18th century London, in the reign of George I. And no sooner done with that, I happened to pick up from my pile Quite apart from the Olympic Games, which I have been watching on television, I seem to be finding myself in London a good deal this summer. A few days ago I finished---and wrote about--Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, a historical novel set in 17th century London. Just yesterday, I finished A Spectacle of Corruption, by David Liss, a fine romp through the back alleys and drawing rooms of 18th century London, in the reign of George I. And no sooner done with that, I happened to pick up from my pile of books The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester--and immediately found myself in the darkest corner of 19th century, Victorian London. More of this last one later, when I've had the chance to read it. Meantime, I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure offered by David Liss. I had previously read A Conspiracy of Paper, in which the same hero, Benjamin Weaver, finds himself embroiled in murder and mayhem in the context of the infamous bursting of the South Sea Bubble. Weaver is the ultimate outsider--a prize-fighter, a Jew, a commoner, and a man of conscience and a rough sense of justice--in a society not unlike our own, riddled with greed, ambition, social climbing, and ruthless unconcern for the rest of humanity. He's tough, not unwilling to bend the law when dealing with people willing to exploit it, yet possessed of an essentially generous heart and tender sensibility. A fine character, filled, like most of us, with contradictions. This Spectacle of Corruption finds our hero narrowly escaping the hangman's noose for a murder he did not commit, breaking out of jail, and masquerading as a "gentleman" in his pursuit of justice in the face of rampant skullduggery on all sides. It's election time: the Whigs are battling the Tories. Behind the scenes, the Jacobites are skulking in hopes of restoring the Pretender, the would-be King James III, to the throne, and ousting the German usurper, George. There are few niceties in the election process. With the possible exception of murder, street riots, extortion, and the purchase of votes, there is something eerily familiar about the way in which these politicians use their lies and false promises to trade on the ignorance and self-interest of voters. Some things, it seems, change little over the centuries. Liss handles all this with great zest and humor. The first person narrative, in what passes convincingly for 18th century speech, moves along with all engrossing haste and takes us on a series of often hair-raising adventures. But, as with "Wolf Hall", it is the detail that engages: the somewhat tawdry splendor of the ballrooms and the drawing rooms of the rich, the squalor of the foul-smelling, rat-infested dwellings of the less fortunate, the stink of beer and gin in rowdy taverns, the back streets and alleys whose mud is generously mixed with human waste--these are the settings through which Weaver moves in his pitiless pursuit of the evil-doers who would gladly see him hanged. Woe betide those who cross him, though. This unbowed, irrepressible member of "the Jewish nation"--so universally scorned in my home country at that time--proves one of the few incorruptible in A Spectacle of Corruption. If you haven't yet encountered him, I can promise you a pleasure in making his acquaintance.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    A decent book that makes a better early draft than final version. In this book, Liss never found the balance between plot-forwarding action and the little details that give color to the main character's life even if they aren't strictly necessary. The book was too much a long series of actions strung together rather than a nicely flowing narrative. Even with this focus on the plot, the mystery takes so many twists and turns that the reader begins to forget what the problem was in the first place A decent book that makes a better early draft than final version. In this book, Liss never found the balance between plot-forwarding action and the little details that give color to the main character's life even if they aren't strictly necessary. The book was too much a long series of actions strung together rather than a nicely flowing narrative. Even with this focus on the plot, the mystery takes so many twists and turns that the reader begins to forget what the problem was in the first place. Combine that with one of those endings that is a summation of individual characters' futures, and you get a pretty bare-bones story, and I wanted something to sink my teeth into.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Wilson

    A Spectacle of Corruption is a historical fiction set around the time of the 1722 General Election; it is a mystery novel built on the backdrop of Whigs and Tories jockeying for position, on Jonathan Wild, on Jacobites and the royal succession. This background is a really exciting place for David Liss to construct his story of Benjamin Weaver, the Jewish, former boxer, private invesigator. Liss takes the trappings of the typical hard-boiled noir story, the flashback structures, the outsider narr A Spectacle of Corruption is a historical fiction set around the time of the 1722 General Election; it is a mystery novel built on the backdrop of Whigs and Tories jockeying for position, on Jonathan Wild, on Jacobites and the royal succession. This background is a really exciting place for David Liss to construct his story of Benjamin Weaver, the Jewish, former boxer, private invesigator. Liss takes the trappings of the typical hard-boiled noir story, the flashback structures, the outsider narrator, and puts it within an intriguing historical construct. It does not break any new ground, but it is an entertaining and engaging read throughout.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gage

    Everyone should read this book this year - election year. If you think our political process is corrupt, read this book and find out how bad it could be. The title is taken from one of the politicians running for Parliament in the book who says that the political process in 1722 London is "a spectacle of corruption." Like all of Liss' books, it is a fabulous portrayal of historical events wrapped up in a great mystery. Everyone should read this book this year - election year. If you think our political process is corrupt, read this book and find out how bad it could be. The title is taken from one of the politicians running for Parliament in the book who says that the political process in 1722 London is "a spectacle of corruption." Like all of Liss' books, it is a fabulous portrayal of historical events wrapped up in a great mystery.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    The continuing story of Benjamin Weaver, a thief-taker. This is a story of his condemnation for murder and his determination to clear his name. The story of his love for Marion and her refusal to be with him. The plot is great, but the history of political process in the early 18th century is outstanding. This is a wonderful read!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I picked up this book at a second hand book sale not realizing it was 2nd in a series until I got on to Goodreads to add it to my book list. It reads very well as a stand alone. Fast-paced, lots of twists and turns. Provides an interesting insight in to British elections in the 18th century. Will re-read for sure and am now interested to hunt out the other books about Benjamin Weaver.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    At a time when Americans have grown increasingly concerned about corruption in our political system, it’s useful to review the origins of electoral democracy in England. After all, our own representative democracy honored the same historical roots as the British parliamentary system. And the novelist David Liss opens a window on the sorry state of the political scene across the pond in 1722 in A Spectacle of Corruption. The title specifically refers to the parliamentary election held in that yea At a time when Americans have grown increasingly concerned about corruption in our political system, it’s useful to review the origins of electoral democracy in England. After all, our own representative democracy honored the same historical roots as the British parliamentary system. And the novelist David Liss opens a window on the sorry state of the political scene across the pond in 1722 in A Spectacle of Corruption. The title specifically refers to the parliamentary election held in that year, shortly after the collapse of the South Sea Bubble triggered a recession in the British economy. “Following the bursting of the Bubble,” Liss’s protagonist writes decades later, “I have never before or since seen such hatred toward the government as volatile as it was in those days.” At the root of this hatred lay rampant political corruption. A complex and multilayered story The story is complex and multilayered, but the narrative thread is essentially simple. It’s couched as a memoir written more than thirty-five years later by a Jewish former prizefighter named Benjamin Weaver, who is falsely accused of murdering a dockworker. Although he proves beyond any reasonable doubt that he is innocent, the judge forces the jury to convict him and promptly sentences him to hang. However, Weaver escapes from prison without delay and sets out to learn who really murdered the dockworker. Adopting a disguise as a wealthy planter from Jamaica, he soon finds that the murder was in some way connected to the upcoming parliamentary election. And his efforts to exonerate himself threaten to defeat the leading candidate from the highly influential constituency of Westminster. In the process, Weaver finds the newspapers for one party paint him as a notorious villain, while those for an opposing party champion him as a national hero. Two familiar characters resurface In this second effort in Liss’s Benjamin Weaver series, we encounter once again two of the principal characters in A Conspiracy of Paper, the first book. Jonathan Wild, a “thieftaker” (who apprehends criminals and delivers them to justice) like Weaver himself, is in reality the country’s first crime boss. “This notorious criminal was still widely believed to be the only true bulwark against the marauding armies of thieves and brigands that plagued the metropolis.” But he plays an unaccustomed role in this sequel. And Weaver’s love interest, his beautiful cousin Miriam, once again plays a prominent role. An undemocratic system and rampant political corruption Three centuries ago the British political system bore little resemblance to the prevailing reality in the country today. With a population of perhaps nine or ten million (compared to sixty-seven million today), and voting limited to male property-owners, the total number of voters in Great Britain’s 1722 election was unlikely to have been even one million. There was no secret ballot, ensuring that men in authority could easily dictate how their subordinates would vote. And politicians routinely purchased votes from independent artisans and shopkeepers. This is the political background against which Liss sets his story. He notes, “Once or twice the suggestion of secret voting had been raised in Parliament, but this notion had always been shot down immediately. What did it say of British liberty, the men of the Commons demanded, if a man were afraid to say publicly whom he supports?” Three contending political forces Don’t try to wade into A Spectacle of Corruption without at least the rudimentary primer that Liss offers in the Historical Note at the outset of his novel. British politics in the early years of the eighteenth century, Liss explains, was dominated by three contending forces. The Tories “were associated with old money, a strong Church [of England], and a strong monarchy.” The Whigs “were associated with new landless wealth, the stock market, nonconformist Protestantism, divesting power from the Church, and Parliamentary power over royal power.” And the third force, the Jacobites, operated in secrecy to hide their revolutionary intentions. They “believed that the crown should be restored to the deposed James II — and, later, his heirs” in the Stuart dynasty. Jacobites, from Jacobus, Latin for James, “often masqueraded as Tories.” In the early 1700s, they supported James II’s son, James III, known as the Pretender. In A Spectacle of Corruption, Liss makes the most of this political history, successfully weaving together the suspenseful tale of Benjamin Weaver’s attempt to prove himself innocent with a colorful account of the rampant political corruption in the run-up to the 1722 election. This is a superior example of historical fiction.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Fischman

    The back cover of this book calls it Historical Fiction, and in that genre, the book succeeds magnificently. You get a vivid sense of the bribery and the battles in the streets that made up a parliamentary election in Britain in 1722, and the after effects of the violent overthrow of the Stuart dynasty, as well as the rise of labor unions on the docks. In fact, the book was as gripping as a season of The Wire, and like that TV series, it shows you flawed idealists and not completely corrupt indi The back cover of this book calls it Historical Fiction, and in that genre, the book succeeds magnificently. You get a vivid sense of the bribery and the battles in the streets that made up a parliamentary election in Britain in 1722, and the after effects of the violent overthrow of the Stuart dynasty, as well as the rise of labor unions on the docks. In fact, the book was as gripping as a season of The Wire, and like that TV series, it shows you flawed idealists and not completely corrupt individuals working within institutions that make it hard to do anything good. As a mystery, however, it left much to be desired. Benjamin Weaver makes much of what he calls “probability,” meaning solving a crime through deduction rather than beating a confession out of a criminal or a witness. Yet by the end of the book, it’s all either violence or extortion, and logic has gone out the window. Weaver’s being Jewish plays very little role in this book except for making it easy for the public to believe him capable of murder. Oh, and making it plausible that a Christian merchant’s sister with a rebellious streak could see him as someone to sleep with and never have to marry. I did enjoy the book, and if you read it for the moment in history and not for the whodunnit, you may too.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Paul de Barros

    This was a good book, but not as good as the first Benjamin Weaver novel. I think I would have liked it better had I read it in a much shorter period of time. The story is somewhat complicated, and the setting extremely so. There is quite a lot of political intrigue, and trying to keep track of the Whigs, Tories, Jacobites, Hannoverians, and whatnot was not easy, especially since the issues that divided them are so foreign to my experience with politics. Due to all of that, it is a book best rea This was a good book, but not as good as the first Benjamin Weaver novel. I think I would have liked it better had I read it in a much shorter period of time. The story is somewhat complicated, and the setting extremely so. There is quite a lot of political intrigue, and trying to keep track of the Whigs, Tories, Jacobites, Hannoverians, and whatnot was not easy, especially since the issues that divided them are so foreign to my experience with politics. Due to all of that, it is a book best read when you have the time to read it all in a week or two. It's a period piece written in first-person narrative form, and so contains an abundance of obscure terminology (even outside the political realm). Some examples include alarum, privation, hobnail boots, toadeater, compter, maggot (meaning a fantastic or eccentric idea), lascar, mountebank, and uxorious. Due to my penchant for acquiring vocabulary, this slowed my reading of the book, but most people would probably just guess the meaning from the context and continue reading without loss of flow. The author does not shy away from illustrating the prejudices that people of that time would have had. This is a little uncomfortable at times, but occasionally humorous when the stereotypes invoked seem so incredibly odd.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer

    Follow-up to A Conspiracy of Paper (a.k.a. The South Sea Company), the title of this book refers to the election – as (very interestingly given the seeming missing angle from the previous book) this book is based entirely around the 1722 General Election – the first Hanoverian election and fiercely contested between the Tories and the Whigs, with in the background the Jacobites plotting another revolution. In many ways the plot is similar to the previous book: again there are two opposing sides w Follow-up to A Conspiracy of Paper (a.k.a. The South Sea Company), the title of this book refers to the election – as (very interestingly given the seeming missing angle from the previous book) this book is based entirely around the 1722 General Election – the first Hanoverian election and fiercely contested between the Tories and the Whigs, with in the background the Jacobites plotting another revolution. In many ways the plot is similar to the previous book: again there are two opposing sides who both seem to fear and use Weaver for their own purposes and at different times seem either to oppose him or seek to destroy him; again Weaver’s main modus operandi is to break into the houses of key figures at night and torture or intimidate them; again Weaver has to understand a new and emerging area of UK society; again one of his key rivals is himself a vicious criminal although one that (partly due to not being Jewish) has a much better reputation than the much more principled Weaver.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laçin T.

    So this book waited like five years -maybe more- on my shelf before I read it. I'd bought it for its intriguing name; something was going on with the state in the plot for sure. Then I forgot about the book. When I decided to free up some space in my library, found this one. I started the book three times, and while travelling, got interrupted three times and gave up- maybe it's the translation?- . One more try and the plot took off in the fifth chapter! It kind of amazes me how I insisted on re So this book waited like five years -maybe more- on my shelf before I read it. I'd bought it for its intriguing name; something was going on with the state in the plot for sure. Then I forgot about the book. When I decided to free up some space in my library, found this one. I started the book three times, and while travelling, got interrupted three times and gave up- maybe it's the translation?- . One more try and the plot took off in the fifth chapter! It kind of amazes me how I insisted on reading and getting rid of the book so slowly! It also amazes me that such a book is actually fun and insightful. The first book I read by David Liss, I wondered if he relies on Ben Weaver-like characters all along - and yes of course, he seems to be a star. Have to be smart, or what? I usually like historical fiction; this one did not disappoint me for I learned quite a lot about the early modern British politics of the Island. For a reader whose view relies on historical sociology texts of E.P.Thompson and such, the book's imagination is full grown and down to earth. Liked how our protagonist had to walk the city to save his back, too. Walking is magical!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is the 2nd novel about Benjamin Weaver(after A Conspiracy of Paper dealing with the South Sea bubble)-a Jewish pugilist turned thief taker(detective). He becomes involved in the thick of politics swirling around the 1722 election(the first after the accession of the German King George), with rivalries, violence, extortion & murder in the struggle between Tories(aristocrats, pro George & the Anglican church) & the Whigs(new wealth & less churchy) as well as the Jacobites-(Tories wanting to r This is the 2nd novel about Benjamin Weaver(after A Conspiracy of Paper dealing with the South Sea bubble)-a Jewish pugilist turned thief taker(detective). He becomes involved in the thick of politics swirling around the 1722 election(the first after the accession of the German King George), with rivalries, violence, extortion & murder in the struggle between Tories(aristocrats, pro George & the Anglican church) & the Whigs(new wealth & less churchy) as well as the Jacobites-(Tories wanting to restore the Catholic monarch James in exile), Weaver is falsely accused of murder when he agrees to investigate threats made to a clergyman, and ends up in Newgate prison, from which he escapes & launches into an investigation of his situation, both as himself & as an alleged Jamaican plantation owner newly arrived in London. There is a huge amount of corruption in the politics of the time, in which he becomes enmeshed. The action is fast & takes twists & turns until the final denouement. There are some minor romantic passages. Altogether a good read

  28. 4 out of 5

    J.M. Harvey

    And enjoyable read I did enjoy this book, but somehow it felt a little thinner than the previous novel in the series. The plot wasn’t very intricate, and while the history was very entertaining, It didn’t explore James the pretender and the intrigue around him with the same level of detail as the previous novel handled the stock bubble. The romance aspect seemed forced to me, and the mystery had him going back-and-forth among the same group of six or seven people over and over which didn’t really And enjoyable read I did enjoy this book, but somehow it felt a little thinner than the previous novel in the series. The plot wasn’t very intricate, and while the history was very entertaining, It didn’t explore James the pretender and the intrigue around him with the same level of detail as the previous novel handled the stock bubble. The romance aspect seemed forced to me, and the mystery had him going back-and-forth among the same group of six or seven people over and over which didn’t really increase the tension, but all in all it was a decent read. It’s hard to follow A Conspiracy of Paper - that was a really great book. I guess my overwhelming feeling after reading this book was I want to go back and read the first book in the series again.

  29. 4 out of 5

    David C Ward

    3.5 stars. An historical detective story set in mid 18th century London during the election season and Jacobite agitation. Does a good job with the background including the themes of identity, forgery, antisemitism and corruption (also the century’s medical faith in enemas!). It’s just a little too stolid and didactic showing off this knowledge. Liss is better when he relaxes a bit into the story; there’s a good joke about the Jewish boxer using Jesus as an alias. Also English witnesses in court 3.5 stars. An historical detective story set in mid 18th century London during the election season and Jacobite agitation. Does a good job with the background including the themes of identity, forgery, antisemitism and corruption (also the century’s medical faith in enemas!). It’s just a little too stolid and didactic showing off this knowledge. Liss is better when he relaxes a bit into the story; there’s a good joke about the Jewish boxer using Jesus as an alias. Also English witnesses in court don’t sit but stand.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

    David Liss delivers his second installment if the goings on and shenanigans of Benjamin Weaver! Where "A Conspiracy of Paper" wrapped itself around the 1700's British stock market, "A Spectacle of Corruption" takes on 1700's British elections - gaining seats for either the Whigs or the Tories. Weaver somehow finds himself mighty deep into the thick of unimaginable corruption! To my amusement, the tale is packed full of humour, intrigue, surprise - a real who-done-what til the last page! David Liss delivers his second installment if the goings on and shenanigans of Benjamin Weaver! Where "A Conspiracy of Paper" wrapped itself around the 1700's British stock market, "A Spectacle of Corruption" takes on 1700's British elections - gaining seats for either the Whigs or the Tories. Weaver somehow finds himself mighty deep into the thick of unimaginable corruption! To my amusement, the tale is packed full of humour, intrigue, surprise - a real who-done-what til the last page!

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