A Conspiracy of Paper
A Conspiracy of Paper is a historical-mystery novel by David Liss, set in London in the period leading up to the bursting of the South Sea Bubble in 1720.
The year is 1716, and Benjamin Weaver is your average thief taker—helping the wealthy obtain what has been stolen from them. He is an outcast among London society—a Jew among Christians and despite the fact that he helps recover what his clients want, they have no qualms about mocking him to his face. When he learns that his father, a stock-jobber, has been murdered (possibly for knowing too much), Benjamin is thrown into the underworld of the English Stock Exchange, where everyone is an enemy and allies are few and everyone has their own reasons for keeping things quiet, and confront his past and culture.
- Based on a True Story: Benjamin is loosely inspired by British Jewish boxer David Mendoza, although he lived about a generation later and wasn't a private detective.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Benjamin's past isn't so much dark as it is troubled.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Benjamin is always helping his clients, returning their stolen goods, but what does he get in return? Racist remarks and scorn!
- Even Evil Has Standards: Ironically, Wild's lieutenant, Abraham Mendes (an actual historical figure), attends synagogue regularly and chides Benjamin for breaking with the Jewish community. In the sequel, it's also revealed that he loves animals.
- Gambit Pileup: It gets to the point where it's easier to list who isn't manipulating the main character.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: Jonathan Wild
- Love Interest: Miriam.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Subverted. Jonathan Wild was the first English crime boss; the author toyed with his character a bit in the book.
- Politically-Correct History: Acknowledged in the afterword toward Miriam. In real life, a woman in her social position/culture wouldn't have the opportunity to interact with society or for that matter a young man the way Miriam does. On the other hand, it pulls no punches in respect to anti-Semitism during the time period.
- Private Detective
- Psycho Sidekick: Abraham Mendes fits the profile pretty well. He grew up friendly with Benjamin, and is now a gangster, whereas Benjamin becomes a detective. And according to type, in the sequel, Benjamin takes advantage of his psychotic personality.
- Purple Prose
- The Reveal: And man, what a reveal it is! Sir Owen Nettleton was the true villain, going under Martin Rochester.
- The Rival: Wild to Benjamin.
- Ungrateful Bastards: Benjamin's clients.