The Coffee Trader : A Novel
by David Liss and John Lee

Overview - Amsterdam, 1659: On the world’s first commodities exchange, fortunes are won and lost in an instant. Miguel Lienzo, a sharp-witted trader in the city’s close-knit community of Portuguese Jews, knows this only too well. Once among the city’s most envied merchants, Miguel has suddenly lost everything.  Read more...


This item is only available to U.S. and Canada billing addresses.
Language: Language: 


More About The Coffee Trader by David Liss; John Lee

Amsterdam, 1659: On the world’s first commodities exchange, fortunes are won and lost in an instant. Miguel Lienzo, a sharp-witted trader in the city’s close-knit community of Portuguese Jews, knows this only too well. Once among the city’s most envied merchants, Miguel has suddenly lost everything. Now, impoverished and humiliated, living in his younger brother’s canal-flooded basement, Miguel must find a way to restore his wealth and reputation.

Miguel enters into a partnership with a seductive Dutchwoman who offers him one last chance at success—a daring plot to corner the market of an astonishing new commodity called “coffee.” To succeed, Miguel must risk everything he values and face a powerful enemy who will stop at nothing to see him ruined. Miguel will learn that among Amsterdam’s ruthless businessmen, betrayal lurks everywhere, and even friends hide secret agendas.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

  • Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
  • Date: Nov 2002

From the book

Chapter 1

It rippled thickly in the bowl, dark and hot and uninviting. Miguel
Lienzo picked it up and pulled it so close he almost dipped his nose
into the tarry liquid. Holding the vessel still for an instant, he
breathed in, pulling the scent deep into his lungs. The sharp odor of
earth and rank leaves surprised him; it was like something an apothecary
might keep in a chipped porcelain jar.

"What is this?" Miguel asked, working through his irritation by pushing
at the cuticle of one thumb with the nail of the other. She knew he had
no time to waste, so why had she brought him here for this nonsense? One
bitter remark after another bubbled up inside him, but Miguel let loose
with none of them. It wasn't that he was afraid of her, but he often
found himself going to great lengths to avoid her displeasure.

He looked over and saw that Geertruid met his silent cuticle mutilation
with a grin. He knew that irresistible smile and what it meant: she was
mightily pleased with herself, and when she looked that way it was hard
for Miguel not to be mightily pleased with her too.

"It's something extraordinary," she told him, gesturing toward his bowl.
"Drink it."

"Drink it?" Miguel squinted into the blackness. "It looks like the
devil's piss, which would certainly be extraordinary, but I've no desire
to know what it tastes like."

Geertruid leaned toward him, almost brushing up against his arm. "Take a
sip and then I'll tell you everything. This devil's piss is going to
make both our fortunes."

It had begun not an hour earlier, when Miguel felt someone take hold of
his arm.

In the instant before he turned his head, he ticked off the unpleasant
possibilities: rival or creditor, an abandoned lover or her angry
relative, the Danish fellow to whom he'd sold those Baltic grain futures
with too enthusiastic a recommendation. Not so long ago the approach of
a stranger had held promise. Merchants and schemers and women had all
sought Miguel's company, asking his advice, craving his companionship,
bargaining for his guilders. Now he wished only to learn in what new
shape disaster would unfold itself.

He never thought to stop walking. He was part of the procession that
formed each day when the bells of the Nieuwe Kerk struck two, signaling
the end of trading on the Exchange. Hundreds of brokers poured out onto
the Dam, the great plaza at Amsterdam's center. They spread out along
the alleys and roads and canal sides. Along the Warmoesstraat, the
fastest route to the most popular taverns, shopkeepers stepped outside,
donning wide-brimmed leather hats to guard against damp that rolled in
from the Zuiderzee. They set out sacks of spices, rolls of linen,
barrels of tobacco. Tailors and shoemakers and milliners waved men
inside; sellers of books and pens and exotic trinkets cried out their

The Warmoesstraat became a current of black hats and black suits,
speckled only with the white of collars, sleeves, and stockings or the
flash of silver shoe buckles. Traders pushed past goods from the Orient
or the New World, from places of which no one had heard a hundred years
before. Excited like schoolboys set free of the classroom, the traders
talked of their business in a dozen different languages. They laughed
and shouted and pointed; they grabbed at anything young and female that
crossed their path. They took out their purses and devoured the
shopkeepers' goods, leaving only coins in their wake.

Miguel Lienzo neither laughed nor admired the commodities set out before
him nor clutched at...


"AN ENTERTAINING TALE . . . [A] LEARNED PAGE-TURNER . . . Despite the many characters and plot twists, Mr. Liss keeps his story in graceful motion." - The Wall Street Journal

"EXPERTLY PLOTTED AND EXCELLENTLY WRITTEN, and it has all the qualities readers want in novels--romance, mystery, suspense, betrayal and redemption, a feeling for how people lived in other times and places." - The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

"UNUSUAL AND DIVERTING . . . Sometimes, as the book demonstrates with a nice twist, sincerity can be the greatest means of deception." - The New York Times Book Review

"[A] TRANSPORTING TALE OF FINANCIAL INTRIGUE . . . [Liss's] writing is smooth and elegant--like a good cup of coffee." - The Boston Globe


"Liss fashions a wide-ranging, labyrinthine plot. . . . He also has a historian's eye for detail, and he creates an Amsterdam that feels very much of its time. . . . Liss's novels are ultimately about a central truth of capitalism, which is that the system is bigger and more powerful than anyone within it. . . . The best moments of The Coffee Trader create a powerful sense of vertigo that's something like the vertigo of finance capitalism." - The Washington Post Book World

"Masterfully plotted, brilliantly imagined, The Coffee Trader brims with intelligence, intrigue, and suspense. David Liss has written a riveting novel about commerce and faith, loyalty and greed." - TOVA MIRVIS
Author of The Ladies Auxiliary

"David Liss has cornered a very narrow niche of the literary market--historical financial thrillers. And it must be said: He's quite good at it. . . . Lienzo's world comes to life in great (and frequently grimy) detail, and the workings of the Amsterdam bourse are eerily similar to modern commodities markets. . . . [The book is] more latte than espresso, and all the more enjoyable as a result." - San Francisco Chronicle

"The Coffee Trader is a very fine piece of historical fiction, and also a uniquely resonant one. . . . David Liss makes the foreign familiar as he immerses the reader in a bustling and intrigue-ridden past." - The Denver Post

AS ERRATIC AS THE DRINK ITSELF. . . .The Coffee Trader paints an evocative picture of Dutch life in the 1600s. Miguel Lienzo's thrilling flim-flam schemes in coffee bean speculation and Liss's insightful commentary on paper-tiger consortiums are rendered real and relevant. . . . Throughout Trader, Miguel remains a befuddling and charming rogue." - Austin American-Statesman

"Good to the last drop . . . Chock full of intrigue, suspense, and financial shenanigans . . . Liss transports the reader back in time . . . handl[ing] the seventeenth century and all the nuances of Dutch culture with utter ease. Whether it's his portrayal of the Ma'amad, the restrictive governing body of Miguel's Jewish community, or the complex characters appearing throughout the novel, The Coffee Trader is an excellent example of historical fiction in its finest form." - The MetroWest Daily News

"The premise and setting of The Coffee Trader is unique, with smaller-scale historical detail as richly rewarding as Liss's remarkable first work, A Conspiracy of Paper." - The San Diego Union-Tribune

"Each player in this complex thriller has a hidden agenda, and the twists and turns accelerate as motives gradually become clear." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A NOVEL OVERFLOWING WITH INTRIGUE AND DUPLICITY . . .Once you've wandered the back alleys of Amsterdam with David Liss, you'll never look at your morning cup of coffee the same way again!" - SHERI HOLMAN
Author of The Dress Lodger
and The Mammoth Cheese

"In his second novel, David Liss creates his own genre: the historical noir. The seventeenth-century Amsterdam he depicts is a wonderfully dark city of secrets, roiling with deceitful maneuverings and caffeine-fueled perils. The Coffee Trader is vivid, utterly absorbing, and more than a little relevant to our current age of financial skulduggery." - GARY KRIST
Author of Extravagance

"The Coffee Trader is riveting as a historical re-creation, compelling as a tale, and relevant both about the morality of community--in this case, Jewish community--and about the ethical corruptions of an economy where value is a function of perception, competition, and, above all, manipulat - NEIL GORDON
Author of Sacrifice of Isaac and Sea of Green

Customer Reviews