Many consider William Shakespeare’s works to contain some of the most moving and lyrical passages ever written in the English language. Of course, some also feature horrific violence, and a few are frankly littered with corpses. Hamlet famously ends with a bloodbath; the title players of Romeo and Juliet end up poisoned and stabbed, respectively—and on and on. For this reason, it comes as no surprise that the Bard of Avon and his works have inspired a great many mystery plots over the years, including in works by Ellery Queen, Ngaio Marsh, Philip Gooden, and, more recently, Jo Nesbø, whose 2018 thriller, Macbeth, is a 1970s-set retelling of the gory Scottish play. Here are three more Shakespeare-themed whodunits, all recommended by Kirkus Indie:

Nicole Dieker’s Shakespeare in the Park With Murder (2023) is the third installment in a mystery series starring the endlessly curious amateur detective Larkin Day. This time around, she’s serving as the interim artistic director of the local Summer Shakespeare Festival in eastern Iowa, which has already had one scandal: The previous artistic director and the woman cast as Juliet in this year’s play were booted for having an affair. Things soon go from bad to worse when the actor playing Romeo dies after drinking from a cyanide-laced flask. Then the recently dismissed actor playing Juliet is found stabbed. It seems that life—or, rather, death—is imitating art, and Larkin is determined to get to the bottom of it. Our reviewer calls the novel “an engaging, sophisticated, and wide-ranging whodunit” that acknowledges “the many ambiguities and subtleties” in Shakespeare’s tale of star-crossed lovers.

A Sudden Interest in Shakespeare (2023) by Paul Breen features hard-drinking Wisconsin musician and part-time P.I. Seamus O’Neill in a sequel that has him looking into the disappearances of two men who initially seem to have little in common—other than the fact that both recently became keen aficionados of the works of Shakespeare. The shamus finds himself embroiled in a financial mystery that even touches briefly upon the infamous controversy over who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays. Kirkus’ reviewer judges the book “a compelling mystery anchored by a winningly roguish hero.”

Shakespeare’s Secrets (2020), Bonnie Hoover Braendlin’s second mystery starring 50-something college professors Ariadne Caulfield and Judith Sheridan, features many references to the Bard. Ariadne and Judith attend a stage performance of The Tempest. When they later return to Ariadne’s place, they find the dead body of Randall Medina, an adjunct in Rutherford College’s English Department, on the floor. Neither woman has any idea why he’s there, and Ariadne’s books are strewn everywhere, including a volume of Shakespeare’s collected plays that holds great meaning for her. (Braendlin’s novel also includes a side discussion of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 23, which features the line “O, let my books be then the eloquence / And dumb presagers of my speaking breast.”) As it turns out, the playwright and poet’s work is a key element to the solution to the mystery. Our reviewer praises the novel’s “nicely balanced plot, including deft character sketches…and a few surprises, including late-breaking drama arising from cleverly sown seeds.”

David Rapp is the senior Indie editor.