The Shakespeare Murders by Sharon Gupta is a historical novel with Shakespeare as a central character in the book. Well, for an Indian writer, writing a cross cultural historical fiction is a thing of distant dream, but Sharon has done it like an expert historian, as she was born in that era, in that country.
The story is staged against seventeenth century England - the year is 1602. That time in England playhouses were used to be great source of entertainment for people, like today we have cinema halls and theaters. The playhouse Globe is a super hit one because Shakespeare is associated with it as a playwright and all the plays that are performed there are original ones, otherwise many playhouses are also in the business of making money by running false stories under the original titles. He works for Lord Chamberlain’s Men. There is a healthy competition among all playhouses, but Shakespeare’s playhouse leads the race.
The peace and success of Globe is piqued when two of its actors are murdered silently and the third one is thrown off the balcony. Chamberlain is an influential figure in Southwark and he wants to find out who the hell is knocking off his men, pushing his business off the track. Chamberlain requests Geoffrey Drake, a highly efficient knight with great detective skills, to solve the murder mystery. And from there starts the hunt.
Geoffrey Drake takes up a new identity as a Geoffrey Dupant and enters Globe posing as a distant cousin of Shakespeare from France. He knows naught about acting in the plays and also at the same time one real rancorous cousin of Shakespeare appears in the picture. That’s there he struggles a bit to get into the ambience.
As he commences the investigation, he visits the slums of Southwark and there an old lady, who sells flowers, gives him his first break. She passes out a vague idea of the murderer. As the story advances, the list of suspects grows long. At one point too many people look involved but that’s not the case with crime thrillers, readers need to read till the last page of the book to know the exact culprits as well as their motive. Richard Burbage the lead actor of the playhouse comes under the purview of suspicion when his signature was found on a note with the first player who died. Well, the note was not original.
There are other playhouse owners that try to poach Globe’s actors and playbooks, so they are also drawn in the curtains of doubt but every time Drake finds that some or other edge of proof is missing. Since Shakespeare is only the playwright there, thus he too was suspected. But why would he kill his own players? It soon clears when a man dressed as a maid tries to kill him and also he was saved by Drake at Chamberlain’s Ball. Someone was behind his life: it became evident halfway the book. With too many suspects around, the task of Drake becomes impossible from difficult. Would he be able to solve it to prove his knightly and detective skills?
After some time the knight Drake takes the charge of the book, but Shakespeare remains with the readers even when he is out of the plot. Well, for Shakespeare lovers this book is a treat, and surely new readers will get to know a lot about the time when the literary hero Shakespeare himself was there as one of the central characters.