Saturday, 21 March 2015

Book Review: THE BITTER TRADE BY PIERS ALEXANDER


My Thoughts on this tale of conspiracy, coffee and Calumny Spinks .......


Published:  April 2014
Source:  NetGalley

In 1688, torn by rebellions, England lives under the threat of a Dutch invasion. Redheaded Calumny Spinks is the lowliest man in an Essex backwater: half-French and still unapprenticed at seventeen, yet he dreams of wealth and title.

When his father’s violent past resurfaces, Cal’s desperation leads him to become a coffee racketeer. He has just three months to pay off a blackmailer and save his father’s life - but his ambition and talent for mimicry pull him into a conspiracy against the King himself.

Cal’s journey takes him from the tough life of Huguenot silk weavers to the vicious intrigues at Court.

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Calumny Spinks, a 'long-limbed red-haired Frenchy gawk' is the narrator of this novel and we follow his journey, after a tragic incident, from a small town in Essex to the big city of London where he becomes involved in conspiracies, coffeehouses and silk weavers.

He has a gift for mimicry, is bright and quick-witted and the young ladies seem to love him! In trying to repay his father's debt he uses his wits and his smooth tongue but this all leads him into dangerous situations and dangerous men.

The sights and sounds of 17th century London are brought to life with vivid descriptions of the workshops, hawkers, tradesmen, chandlers at their craft and silk weaving. This is an England where people meted out their own kind of justice, without fear of retribution, where a man could kill another man with his sword and be thought a hero but to kill another man with a pistol he would be thought a murderer. "If thou fight with pistols and win, law will call thee murderer. But to kill a man in a swordfight is no crime in English law".

There is so much packed into this clever novel, with twists and turns, romance, double dealings, murders, fears of an impending war and friendships, but it also has a soft side, especially the relationship between Calumny and his father which changed throughout the story.

The author has obviously done his research into silk weaving, boats on the Thames and 17th century pistols. My only criticism would be that some of these descriptions were so long that I found my mind wandering reading them.

Overall, a really enjoyable fast-paced novel with memorable characters and a memorable storyline. Looking forward to the next chapter in the life of mister Calumny Spinks.




The author's website http://www.piersalexander.com
Follow him on twitter: @thebittertrade


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