Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Miguel Lienzo is a handsome Jewish commodities trader in Amsterdam in the 1600s, having fled Portugal during the Inquisition.  Who knew there was a stock exchange back then?  Miguel is now living on the edge, having lost everything and then some in the sugar trade.  Living with his brother and his brother’s beautiful wife, Miguel cooks up a scheme with a mysterious widow, Geertruid, to recover and surpass his previous fortune.  The big questions are whether or not Miguel’s plan for manipulating the price of coffee will work and whether his partners are trustworthy.  Constantly fending off his creditors, he never seems to become frantic, despite consuming excessive amounts of coffee, being hounded by a destitute and disgruntled client, and managing not to cross the Ma’amad--a Jewish Council that prohibits doing business with gentiles.  Meanwhile, he may be falling in love with his brother’s wife, who doesn’t realize that the coffee beans have to be brewed.  She eats the berries raw.  Whoa!  That’s hardcore.  There are a few twists and turns, especially at the end, and even some suspense, but, although Miguel may be full of coffee-induced energy, the pace of the novel is agonizingly slow.  This book was not my cup of tea, perhaps because I’m not a coffee drinker.  Maybe some caffeine would have helped me plow through it with more enthusiasm.

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