Book Review: The Coffee Trader

David Liss (2003)

A year from now, I suspect I’ll recall very little about this book. I’ll probably forget about it all together until the movie adaptation hits theaters. Not that I’ve heard it’s going to be made into a movie; it’s just the type of book that reads that way–like a long, drawn out movie treatment.

In 1659 Amsterdam, a Jewish exile from Portugal attempts to make his fortune by cornering the market on an exotic new drink–coffee. His financial dealings bring him in contact with all manner of characters, from the seat of power to back alley slums. Schemes, double-crosses, who’s playing who, and deception abound as Miguel tries to play the system and those around him to make a killing.

I didn’t find the story all that compelling, the characters were generally unlikable and uninteresting, and I thought the book took too long to tell its story. The writing style got the job done, but wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.

I was reminded of John Grisham and why I don’t read his books. Fans of corporate intrigue and financial machinations (not I) will probably enjoy The Coffee Trader. Mix in a period setting, the Inquisition, greed, lust, a few red herrings, and the romance of a Vermeer painting and you have all the makings of a good beach read for someone who misses reading the Wall Street Journal while they’re on vacation. [**]

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