The Bitter Trade

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 the London coffee rackets. 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. As the illicit trader Benjamin de Corvis and his controlling daughter Emilia pull him into their plots, and his lover Violet Fintry is threatened by impending war, Cal is forced to choose between his conscience and his dream of becoming Mister Calumny Spinks.

Excerpts & Extras

  • Read Chapter 1 of The Bitter Trade

    "I was born to a raging Frenchy slugabed mother, sired by a sulking silk-weaver with a battered box of secrets under his floorboards..."

    The Bitter Trade, Chapter 1
  • Listen in Surround Sound 5D Audio

    "Ty cried out as the point of the curette burst open the smaller boil, and the surgeon twisted it in the wound to scrape away the yellow-pink mass inside..."

    The Curette


  • "Piers Alexander has written a fantastic debut novel.”

    Robert Elms, BBC Radio London
  • “An excellent debut novel by a talented author. Piers Alexander will be a writer to watch.”

    The Historical Novel Society
  • “The ambitious, cheeky Calumny Spinks is a great guide through the sensory overload of 17th century London, in an adventure that combines unexpected insights with just the right amount of rollicking ribaldry. I hope it’s the opener to a series.”

    Christopher Fowler, author of the Bryant and May novels
  • “This is an epic adventure, full of pungent period detail, a Dickensian cast of vibrant characters, plus a complex and brilliantly conceived plot which makes your head spin. 17th century London comes fully to life, with all its triumphs and inequalities, colour, texture and structure. A beautifully written story; so many lines stopped me in my tracks to just admire the craftsmanship of the prose.”

    JJ Marsh, Bookmuse
  • “This debut novel is a gripping evocation of late seventeenth century London, rich in persuasive dialect and period detail and with a bold protagonist. An unusual thriller that just keeps you wanting to know more about the many facets of this story. You’ll never view your coffee in quite the same way again.”

    Daniel Pembrey, bestselling author of The Candidate
  • “I just finished The Bitter Trade by Piers Alexander – perhaps the best book I’ve read this year. Rollicking historical fiction set in 17th century London. It’s brilliant. Read it!”

    David Gaughran, bestselling author of Mercenary and A Storm Hits Valparaiso