The Devil’s Company is the third in David Liss’ Benjamin Weaver series. Weaver is a thief-take and former boxer of some repute in 18th century London. In this installment, which was my first, we find Weaver at a loss when he discovers himself in a great deal of debt to one of his customers. Not only did this customer, one Mr. Cobb, purposefully create this scenario to keep Weaver in his debt, he bought up the debts of Weaver’s beloved uncle, good friend, and acquaintance. While Weaver did nothing to create this situation, he feels morally responsible for the detrimental financial impact this situation has caused. He is forced, then, to accept an assignment he had previously turned down – to break into the highly guarded offices of the East India Company and steal documentation for an upcoming meeting. Unfortunately, this isn’t the last of what Mr. Cobb requires and he keeps Weaver in the dark on his ultimate purposes. In order to free himself and his friends and loved ones from Mr. Cobb’s grip, Weaver has to fight to keep Mr. Cobb happy while working behind the scenes to discover what he really wants and seek his revenge.
This novel was a breath of fresh air for me for this period of London’s history. Other novels set in this same time and place, most recently The Brothers Boswell, have been dry and quite slow. Liss’ story is not only fast paced and continually interesting, but the dialog, most specifically the banter between Weaver and his good friend, Elias, made this novel so enjoyable. The style of speech and the relative formality of personal interactions felt authentic to the time period, but I had no difficulty putting myself in the same room or following along with the characters as they walked down the road. While I can’t say that I would have wanted to live during that time, I feel as though I visited there.
The Devil’s Company is more than just a mystery with a scrappy hero. It delves into the connections between big business and governmental power. While the East India Company is a huge giant carrying a big stick doing what it can to keep its market share and put down any type of government interference, this novel discussed the relationship between a governments need for power and security and the wealth and stability of big multi-national companies. It is interesting to think that you can bring down a world power by attacking its wealthiest private companies. If those companies in turn treat the people as disposable waste, where should you hold your loyalty?
Having never read any of David Liss’ previous work, I wasn’t sure what to expect. He is a talented writer who has created memorable and, most importantly, realistic characters. I previously bought a copy of his novel The Coffee Trader as it takes place in Amsterdam. I am eager to read it now because of the author. I also want to read A Conspiracy of Paper and A Spectacle of Corruption, the first two novels in this series Benjamin Weaver is such a great character I want to read his complete back story. With The Devil’s Company, I have found a new historical novelist that I love to explore. What a gem is that?
Access to the Early Reviewers program is just one of the many reasons why I use LibraryThing to catalog my books online. You should check it out.
This is my second review for the R.I.P. Challenge.
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