Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Coffee Trader

Several years ago at Bouchercon, a panel discussed the placement of mysteries in their own section as opposed to the general fiction section.  That's when I came up with the theory of Popular De-Genrefication.  Once an author reliably reaches the top of the best seller list, his or her genre novels appear on the general fiction shelves.  David Liss's The Coffee Trader exemplifies this in reverse.  It's a literary novel (and a dozen years after its initial publication, probably obscure) but I found it in the mystery section of Borders.  There's some intrigue, but I'd classify it as a straight novel.

Miguel Lienzo, a 17th Century Portugese Converso, relocated to Amsterdam and made (and lost) his living on the futures market.  Due to one of those losses, he's living in his brother's house and being stalked by a former business partner.  His current partner, a Dutch widow named Geertruid convinces him to enter the coffee trade while his brother, at the behest of the local religious authorities, warns him away.  And I didn't care.  I loved Liss's language, but couldn't get involved in the plot or bring my self to care about the characters.  Maybe that's why The Coffee Trader sat unread on my shelf for the decade since I'd read Liss's first novel, A Conspiracy of Paper.  I have two more of his books waiting, but they're unlikely to rise to the top of the To Be Read list.

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