Mini review: The Devil’s Company by David Liss

· Hardcover: 384 pages

· Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (July 7, 2009)
· Language: English
· ISBN-10: 1400064198
· ISBN-13: 978-1400064199
· Genre: historical fiction, thriller
· Target audience: adults

Synopsis (partially from the back cover):

It is the third historical thriller featuring Benjamin Weaver (after A Spectacle of Corruption and A Conspiracy of Paper, reviewed by me not so long ago).

1722, London. Benjamin, still earning his living as a ruffian for hire, a thieftaker and a master of disguise, is forced to cooperate with a mysterious mastermind – a man named Cobb – nobody knows anything about. To keep unwilling Weaver in line, Cobb has bought a lot of debt notes belonging to Weaver’s ill uncle, Miguel, and two other close friends of his, practically holding their lives in the balance (and we speak about times when you could spend many years in a debtor’s prison if you didn’t manage to pay your dues). To protect the people he cares about Weaver must stage a daring robber from the headquarters of the ruthless British East India Company. Although he manages to do so, it is just a thin end of the wedge. Next, he is ordered to work for that very company in a rather dubious capacity to find out the real reason of death of a certain Absalom Pepper – a closet inventor, a ladies’ man and much much more. Soon enough, against his better judgement, he gets involved in a dangerous game of secret plots, corporate rivalry and foreign spies. Navigating a labyrinth of greed and treachery he will get acquainted with a corporate life resembling very much that of our contemporary great companies.

What I liked:

The plot was as action-packed and full of twists and turns, as I like. I didn’t have one minute of boredom while reading this one.

Vivid period detail is rendered so it can actually make you interested in history, even if you didn’t like the subject or the era before. This time Mr. Liss provides some interesting glimpses into the Rules of the Fleet – a law-free area around Fleet Prisons where debtors could live free from arrest and clandestine marriages took place without banns or license. After reading about it if you ever visit that area in London you will never treat it as just another part of the city again.

The narrative voice of  our main hero never ceased to amuse me – Weaver has a biting, sarcastic wit, and he had me laughing at many places in the novel. Apart from that, once again the author did choose the right amount of archaisms to make the book era-believable but not to discourage contemporary readers.

What I didn’t like:

I know it is difficult to keep a series of novels based on the same formula on a high level it was started; small wonder the third part I found somehow lacking.

First of all, in this book we meet a Celia Glade who is supposed to be the next love interest of Benjamin. I did want more romance but now I suppose our main character fell in love again too early – to be honest I found Miss Celia one of the weakest female characters in Liss’s trilogy so far. Not only she doesn’t feature often enough to be close to a fully-fledged heroine you can relate to but she remains surprisingly two-dimensional to the very end, despite the fact that she is supposed to be a splendid actress and a mistress of disguise herself. I don’t say she is not amendable because undoubtedly she is (providing that the author plans a fourth book). I just wish we were given more proof of it.

I was also a bit disappointed that Mr. Liss neglected to explore the inner workings of the British East India Company in greater detail; I would love to read about it even if it meant a slightly bulkier book. I did enjoy his rants about the evils of big corporations and capitalism, though – a very contemporary topic and always close to my heart. Here, I end this section in a positive way – it means the book wasn’t totally bad. 🙂

Final verdict:

If you enjoy historical fiction with a strong background of conspiracy, economics, technological development and a tad of romance, and with much of the action taking place in 18th century London, this trilogy is for you. I admit I found the third part the weakest but, overall, I don’t regret buying and reading it. After two such brilliant installments you simply must read the third even if deep down you know it might be a tad worse.

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12 Responses to Mini review: The Devil’s Company by David Liss

  1. Tracy says:

    I'd need to read the others first – but it's always the case that you need to read series like this, any series, (whether this, or VI Warshawski, or the Jackson Brodie series) with a long gap between books – or they do suffer from the comparison.

  2. Anachronist says:

    I had a long gap between the second and the third installment, Tracy – something like several months. Still I must say I liked the first two parts better.

  3. Sometimes I think authors run out of ideas.

  4. Anachronist says:

    Sometimes they do. And sometimes they are just at a low ebb. It can happen to anybody, even literary geniuses.

  5. Blodeuedd says:

    You do make them sound good 🙂 For me, ohhh I do not know. Some books I just have to try to see. It's often those I do not think I am gonna love I fall hard for

  6. I think I remember you reviewing the first 2 in the series. I'm fairly intrigued by the plot and being that you liked them I probably would too. But, throwing in crappy love interests doesn't suit me well. I am still intrigued. Hopefully any future books don't get worse and this was just a transition book that bridges the way to greatness.

  7. I do have to be in the mood for a conspiracy novel, but your enjoyment of these books has me curious. I did see this one and wondered when you would get to it! 🙂

  8. So many sub-genres to choose from, I can't seem to keep up. Historical thriller? Now another genre I have to add to the list to try. I am curious, I don't think I've ever read a fiction novel set in the 1700's. It also has a lot of components to it. If I come across this, I will definitely give it a look.P.S. Check out my blog today, it's BBAW Appreciation Week. 😉

  9. Hmmmm I love the IDEA of this one, but I'm not sure the follow-through appeals to me. Fab review though 🙂

  10. Anachronist says:

    @ Blodeuedd's It's often those I do not think I am gonna love I fall hard for – how very true! Taking the first Liss's novel I never knew I would like it at all!@ Jen – your memory is long! ;P@Melissa (BaT) – if you are in the mood do try any of them. This one lay on my desk for months before I finally had enough time to read it.@Lena – I will, thanks for the invitation. 18th century London is fun!@Melissa (i swimm for oceans) – thanks for a visit and kind words!

  11. I like the sound of this one, and have never tried this author so I need to add it to my list.

  12. Anachronist says:

    Diane if you want to start this series do begin with the Conspiracy of Paper. Thanks for a visit!

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