Rotten at the Heart

Rotten at the Heart - Bartholomew Daniels * I received this as an ARC in a Goodreads “First Reads” Giveaway *

When William Shakespeare receives the news that his patron Henry Carey, the Queen’s Lord Chamberlain, has died he is not only surprised (as he had heard that Carey was on the mend from his illness) but also very concerned (as not only was his troupe named for their patron but heavily dependent on said patronage to meet expenses and payroll). After a visit to George Carey, son and heir to the Lord Chamberlain he is slightly relieved to know that patronage of his theatre will continue. Only slightly relieved because it comes under a condition, George believes his father was murdered and wants Will to uncover the culprit.

Enter William Shakespeare, Detective. It seems like an unlikely premise, but it intrigued me. Shakespeare proved to be clever and resourceful as a detective and due to his keen observation skills of human behavior he often stumbles across things that others have missed. Spurred on by not only the hope of saving his own company of actors but his father’s good name and safety as well, he manages to fight both adversity and attacks.

With the exception of one or two plays that shall remain unnamed, I enjoy Shakespeare and most things Elizabethan so this book was an enjoyable read for both the setting and the characters. But, boy oh boy, did it take me a long time to find the rhythm of the writing. Mr. Daniels (?) wrote the book in Shakespeare’s voice so for the first third of the book I was working my way through sentences that seemed backwards and misarranged such as; “Alone in that room, normal used for guests, I sat long awake, finally giving up hope of sleep. I did fancy for some time that I could end the seeming endless grief my life had late become, my dagger near and my heart feeling that would welcome the company of the blade.” I did finally find my “Elizabethan reading legs” and it became a little faster and much easier to enjoy the rest of the book once that happened. The one thing that stood out for me was how seamlessly Mr. Daniels (?) incorporated titles and quotes from Shakespeare’s works into the book, not as what they were … quotes, but rather as part of the prose of the story. It made me smile whenever I came across one of the hidden gems such as … “Your name, man. How are you called?” "Will most often, by those who know me well, but as you like it.”

And in case you are wondering, yes, the question mark behind Mr. Daniels (?) name was always intentional. Bartholomew Daniels is a book collector we meet in the introduction to this novel and I must mention that his story seems quite as interesting as the one he shares … but I digress … Bartholomew discovers the hidden papers belonging to the bard and being a “close friend” of novelist Dan O’Shea sets to editing the manuscripts for us so that “modern readers might be able to thrill to them also.”