Chasing Shakespeares

Reviewed: December 28, 2005
By: Sarah Smith
Publisher: Washington Square Press
352 pages, $18.50

No, you haven’t misread this title. The word is plural, reflecting the fact reflecting the fact that the central quest of this mystery is to uncover the true identity of the Bard of Avon and that there are many contenders.

Yes, this is a question to which many answers have been given over the centuries, and so many people have been advanced as the True Author of those plays and sonnets, only to be discredited, that one is left to wonder why people can’t leave well enough alone.

That’s what Joe Roper thinks at the beginning of this story. He’s a graduate student in English Lit., who has just inherited the task of wading though what is supposed to be a fabulous collection of Elizabethan papers collected by his academic mentor. Most of them turn out to be trash forgeries, but one, which seems to be genuine, purports to have been written by one W. Shakespeare of Stratford, and it claims what many have averred, that William was just a front man for a better educated upper class scribbler who didn’t want to be found out.

Joe might have set it aside and given up, but he’s seduced (in more ways than one) into following the clues by rich, beautiful Posy Gould, who whisks him off to England to work on the mystery.

The self-confessed “hick from Vermont” is no match for Posy’s wiles, and soon finds himself on a literary scavenger hunt that compares in complexity to the search for the Holy Grail in The Da Vinci Code, except that nobody dies in this clue fest.