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Haunt Me Still    by Jennifer Lee Carrell Amazon.com order for
Haunt Me Still
by Jennifer Lee Carrell
Order:  USA  Can
Plume, 2011 (2010)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

As we all know some works of fiction demand a willing suspension of disbelief this is one of those literary masterpieces. Jennifer Lee Carrell weaves together a fanciful but engrossing thriller that combines Shakespeare's missing years, occult magic, and the superstition behind the play Macbeth.

Wildly believed to be cursed, Macbeth is a work with an interesting past. Carrell delves into that past as she freely mixes fact with fiction in creating a suspense yarn that is as bloody as Shakespeare's historical tragedy.

Kate Stanley is called to Scotland to direct a private performance of Macbeth using authentic relics from the Elizabethan period. Upon her arrival at Dunsinnan, the home of the woman staging the performance, Kate learns of a lost version of the play that is rumored to contain actual rituals of witchcraft and forbidden knowledge.

As the story unfolds, Kate finds herself involved in a deadly struggle to locate the missing manuscript. The trail leads from Scotland to London and New York City before the shattering conclusion is reached on a windswept moor in the Highlands.

Ritual murder plays a central role in the story (the body count eventually tops out at eight victims) as those who desire the forbidden knowledge the lost manuscript supposedly contains will stop at nothing to possess it.

In what is perhaps the most bizarre explanation of Shakespeare's genius, this thriller suggests that the Bard's brilliance can be attributed to a 'moment of hocus-pocus' when he witnessed and recorded some forbidden magical rites in Scotland.

Perhaps a bit tongue in cheek, the author cites a line from Hamlet ('There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy') when one of her characters explains the Elizabethan playwright's exceptional literary ability. And, yes, at this point that suspension of disbelief does become necessary if you intend to read further.

In the eighteen page Author's Note at the novel's conclusion, Carrell does make an attempt to set the record straight by separating the actual fact and supposition from the purely fanciful material. Although the novel's premise is largely fantasy, there is some intriguing information cleverly worked into the story line and characterization.

No matter whether you are a fan of Shakespeare or not, once into this fanciful thriller you'll find that it has an uncanny way of grabbing hold of you. Even if you totally reject the idea of witches, white and black magic, and similar supernatural clap-trap, the action, characters, and topic exert such force that it becomes impossible to put the book aside. In fact, it is rather spooky in that respect!

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