Was William Shakespeare murdered? His childhood friend goes to great lengths to find out.
Simon Saddler, wool merchant and constable of the Stratford Corporation, was Shakespeare’s closest friend until he caught the Bard in bed with his wife, Peg. Although Will tells Simon on his deathbed that he’s been poisoned, Simon’s not disposed to believe him until after his death, when John Hall, Shakespeare’s physician and son-in-law, realizes that his symptoms were those of arsenic poisoning. Although many in Stratford had reason to dislike the poet and playwright, Simon, thinking the answers may well lie in London, sets off after getting permission from the sheriff of Warwickshire. Once in London, Simon is immediately sucked into dangerous political intrigues, and attempts are made to kill him. He distrusts playwright Ben Jonson, who says he wants to help him, and soon becomes involved in the affairs of the mighty: the Earl of Southampton, the attorney general, the chief justice, and even King James. Simon can’t help wondering if Shakespeare’s sudden recovery from financial difficulties is related to his death. Despite numerous attempts on his person, he continues to dig into matters that someone is willing to kill to keep hidden.
In a departure from his well-known King Arthur series (The Stolen Bride, 2012, etc.), Hays pens an excellent mystery replete with historical detail, surely meant to have been the first in a series that sadly will be cut short by his recent death.