A Mystery of Errors

Written by Simon Hawke
Review by Lisa Sweeney

After viewing a performance by a traveling theater troupe, stage-struck apprentice blacksmith Symington “Tuck” Smythe leaves his country village and heads for London, determined to become an actor. Along the way, he is befriended by a poet who also has theatrical ambitions — William Shakespeare.

The two reach London and find employment with the Queen’s Men, but not in the manner they had envisioned. Working as ostlers at the theater while waiting for their big break, Will and Tuck become involved by chance in the problems of Elizabeth Darcie, the beautiful daughter of one of the theater’s financial backers. Elizabeth’s socially ambitious father has arranged for her to marry the son of a prominent court member, and when her betrothed is murdered, Tuck must solve the mystery quickly to save the company from disastrous consequences.

The novel is laced with fascinating glimpses into the world of Elizabethan theater and describes the bickering in and between companies and the process of writing, rehearsing, and staging plays. There are lots of appearances by members of the Elizabethan stage, and Hawke’s portrayal of Shakespeare is irresistible. The novel is set during the “lost years” of Shakespeare’s life, and Hawke’s version of how Shakespeare might have gotten his start in the theater is at once respectful and funny. Tuck is an interesting, likeable and resourceful protagonist. This fast, light-hearted romp will delight lovers of Shakespeare and things Elizabethan.