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Shakespeare and Murder: A Winning Combination

Shakespeare and Murder: A Winning Combination

I thought I would contribute to the Halloween spirit with some great books about Shakespeare and murder. Many of Shakespeare’s plays revolve around murder, but other authors also think Shakespeare and murder make a great combination. Recently I’ve been dipping into some murder mysteries with plots that involve the Bard himself. If you’re in the mood for some murderous mayhem and Shakespeare this Halloween, give one of these books a try!

Shakespeare Solves Some Murders

The Shakespeare and Smythe series by Simon Hawke follows the lives of William Shakespeare and Symington “Tuck” Smythe. The two meet on the road to London. Upon discovering that they’re both seeking fame and fortune in London’s theaters (Shakespeare as a playwright and Smythe as an actor), the two team up to pool their resources and share adventures. Of course, these adventures often end up including murder.

Shakespeare is Accused of Murder

In Murder in Stratford by Audrey Peterson, William Shakespeare finds himself accused of killing an old friend. Anne Hathaway Shakespeare decides to do some investigating in hope of clearing her husband’s name. We don’t know much about Shakespeare’s marriage, but Peterson does a great job of creating a believable picture of the family’s life in Stratford. She also comes up with creative answers to some of the many of the unanswered questions about William and Anne’s relationship, including the circumstances surrounding their marriage, their relationship during his years as a playwright in London, and the reason why he famously left her his “second best bed” in his will. Anne solves the mystery, but ultimately the most enjoyable part of this book is hearing Anne’s side of the story about her life with the famous playwright.

Shakespeare is Murdered

Shakespeare No More by Tony Hays offers a different twist on the theme of Shakespeare and murder. It’s April 1616 and the Bard is on his deathbed. Knowing he only has hours to live, he summons his old friend Simon Saddler. He tells him he’s been poisoned, but he doesn’t know who did it. Saddler is the Constable of Stratford, but he’s reluctant to investigate Shakespeare’s claim. The two men grew up together, and were close friends until Shakespeare had an affair with Saddler’s wife. After much persuading, Saddler finally agrees to travel to London to see if he can uncover any clues to the possible poisoner. He also hopes that what he learns about Shakespeare’s life in London will help him understand his hurtful betrayal of their friendship. Shakespeare No More weaves a compelling tale. I had a hard putting it down once I started reading it.

And for Something Completely Different … Queen Elizabeth I Solves Murders

This series by Karen Harper is set in the early years of Elizabeth’s reign, so it pre-dates Shakespeare’s time as a playwright. However, Harper’s wonderful evocation of 16th century England will help readers understand the times in which Shakespeare lived and wrote. These gripping novels feature people and events that were central to Elizabeth’s life. In addition, Harper populates the series with a cast of compelling fictional characters from all walks of life, providing a 360˚ view of Elizabethan England.

This is just a small sampling of the many historical novels that combine Shakespeare and murder. For more great suggestions, take a look at this article on Shakespearean mysteries from Janet Rudolph’s Mystery Fanfare blog.

You can also check out my programs and presentations on Shakespeare and other Anglophile topics.

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