The Coffee Trader

This is the story of how  Miguel Lienzo brought coffee to Europe.  No, it is the story of  Miguel Lienzo working from rags to riches. No, it is the story of betrayal and corruption. No, it is the story of the commodities market in Amsterdam in 1659 at a time when buying and selling futures was new to the world.

OK, it’s that and more.  Miguel Lienzo and his younger brother moved from Portugal to avoid certain death at the hands of the Inquisition. They were Jews who worshiped in secret but attended Mass on Sundays. The Dutch did not care about their Judaism, so anyone who had the means made their escape.

The Lienzo brothers became successful traders at the market until Miguel went into debt on a sugar future gone bad. His only chance was to score big. Coffee was nearly unheard of in Europe and was controlled by the Dutch East Indies company. Nearly all their coffee was sold in Moslem lands.

The plot is woven from many layers and complications. Miguel struggles to identify all the bits and get them under his control. David Liss has given us a masterpiece.

Mike Lawrence

Paper Doll

Olivia Nelson was the perfect wife and mother. Her husband was Boston Old Money. When she was found in the street near her home, bludgeoned to death with a hammer, the police were stumped. Her husband hired Spenser to find the truth.

This is book 20 in the Spenser series, published in 1992. His wisecracks are right out of Archie Goodwin working for Nero Wolfe. His pursuit of criminals is similar to Sam Spade with less drinking and more exercise. It was the 90’s.

This is a predictable story except for the plot. Yes, Spenser works his way through all obstacles, but the killer remains unpunished. You may work it out before Spenser does, but don’t count on it.

This is a light beach read, or in my case, an airplane read. You can put your brain in neutral, sit back, and enjoy.

Mike Lawrence