London, early 18th century, financial fraud and skulduggery: but I'm afraid that Mr Neal Stephenson has spoilt me for this sort of thing. A Conspiracy of Paper is not a bad book, but it drags and droops and is devoid of humour. Or perhaps that's its narrator, Benjamin Weaver, a former boxer born Benjamin Lienzo to a mercantile Jewish family. Weaver is hired to investigate the apparent suicide of a man whose son suspects foul play: he's also working on the theft of some letters of an intimate nature from a gentleman about to be married to an innocent bride. Meanwhile, his friend Elias, physician and playwright, always seems to have time to listen to his theories, even while producing a new play at short notice.
Plenty of action, murder and mayhem, a charming cameo from Jonathan Wild ... but too many of the characters felt two-dimensional, and some of them seemed quite anachronistic (an unmarried Jewish girl playing the nascent stock market, for example). I'll probably return to this writer for period colour, but not for characterisation -- or for plot, the climax of which seemed rather muddled.
reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place