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The Shakespeare Secret    by J. L. Carrell order for
Shakespeare Secret
by J. L. Carrell
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Sally Selvadurai

This book is in the same genre and The Da Vinci Code; Jennifer Lee Carrel has taken the much debated question as to the true authorship of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets, and woven the findings into the fabric of a great detective novel. The plot moves along at a fast pace, moving across continents in both the present and the past and arriving at a rather intriguing end point.

Katharine (Kate) Stanley is the heroine of the piece; she is directing a new production of Shakespeare's Hamlet at London's Globe Theatre, a reproduction of the original true down to even the thatched roof. During rehearsals, Kate's doctoral supervisor, Roz Howard, from Harvard makes a sudden appearance, giving her a gift, and exacting a promise that Kate will follow the mystery that the gift reveals. Before Kate has a chance to meet with Roz that night to reveal the gift's secret, the venerable Globe Theatre burns for a second time (the first being in 1613), oddly enough on the same day, Tuesday, June twenty-ninth. Again a body is found in the ruins and Kate is launched into a race to find the truth behind Roz's gift.

The story takes Kate back to America to check the Shakespearian archives at Harvard, now with an enigmatic bodyguard in tow Roz's nephew Ben Pearl, who demonstrates an uncanny ability to produce the false documents that they require as they stay one step ahead of one of London's finest, Detective Chief Inspector Francis Sinclair. With the help of Ben and one of the finest Shakespearean actors, Sir Henry Lee, Kate begins to unravel the murky and tortuous path that will eventually, she hopes, once and for all establish the identity of the author of all the writings currently attributed to Mr. William Shakespeare, son of an illiterate glover, someone who never travelled outside England, a person who appears to have had no formal education. Can Kate manage to silence the voices of disbelievers and also uncover a lost Shakespeare play in the bargain?

Jennifer Lee Carrel's The Shakespeare Secret is a lovely, fast paced read that will keep any reader enthralled until the last page. The author's note at the end is also worth a perusal; Ms Carrel was a graduate student at Harvard and has long been intrigued by the possibility that Shakespeare manuscripts might still be missing and also the well researched, and controversial, hypotheses on the authorship of Shakespeare's collected works. Hats off to a good summer read!

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