On more than a few occasions my Dad said to me “From the smallest acorn comes the biggest oak”, a folk homily that nicely encapsulates The Bitter Trade. There is a lot in this novel that smacks of the picaresque, but it is very much a modern novel, grounded in reality, and at times steeped in the brutality of the era. The story barely has begun before Calumny witnesses a member of his family being scolded. From there Calumny gets caught up in a series of plots and encounter that flies by in a pell-mell fashion, as he moves through society, sometimes a pawn, and sometimes in charge of his own destiny, but always with wit and a panache that I have seldom encountered. The author does a sensational job of keeping the plot twists and turns coming without slowing down the story. Calumny is not exactly the nicest character, and often comes across as a selfish bastard, but he manages to redeem himself just enough, and he is always fascinating. This is one of my favorite novels that I have read recently, and I am happy to say that a sequel is in the works. I will be waiting with bated coffee-breath.