A Spectacle of Corruption
© 2004 David Liss
When Benjamin Weaver went to a pub, he never expected to end up fighting for his life, let alone be arrested for the crime of killing a man he only met when the man saved his life during the struggle. But that’s what taking jobs from mild-mannered preachers will get you. The minister had been threatened with violence if he didn’t stop sermonizing against the Whig abuse of the poor, and asked Weaver — detective, bounty hunter, thieftaker, shakedown man — to find out who was responsible for the threats. But during an election season, even a homily for the poor can be part of an elaborate plot. And so, after effecting an escape from prison and a death sentence, Weaver must find out who is trying to frame him, and why — and in the process, will find himself knee deep in a conspiracy to restore James II to the crown. A Spectacle of Corruption thrusts Weaver into the exciting and dangerous world of 17th century politics, taking readers on a journey through the dark, winding paths of London, into working class pubs and the galleries of the wealthy.
Spectacle is a worthy successor to A Conspiracy of Paper, dominated by Weaver and a few other outstanding characters — his doctor and friend, whose obsession with bloodletting (a running joke) has switched to enemas, Johnathan Wild, the ‘thieftaker general’ who is involved in every criminal plot of note, and (of course) a beautiful woman who is far more canny than proper society will allow for. Weaver has no idea who would be trying to frame him , and even less idea as to who wants to help out him. Someone placed a sobbing lass with a lockpick in his path before he was incarcerated. The man who Weaver immediately suspects, Wild, has nothing to do with it. The mystery is part of the battle being waged between the Whigs (corrupt businessmen), the Tories (corrupt aristocrats), and to a lesser extent between the Tories and the shadowy Jacobin plot to one day displace George I and restore to the English throne a monarch who can actually speak English. Unlike Conspiracy of Paper and Ethical Assassin, Liss doesn’t use Spectacle to muse on any philosophical issue, except perhaps the frauds people perpetuate to find a better place for themselves within society, masking their true selves as not to cause alarm.
I very much look forward to the third book in this series, The Devil’s Company.