Shakespeare No More: A Jacobean Mystery

Written by Tony Hays
Review by Tom Vallar

Knowing he is dying, William Shakespeare summons his estranged childhood friend to his bedside to find out who poisoned him. Simon Saddler knows that as the constable of Stratford it is his duty to find the murderer of a fellow townsman, but to do so he must let go of the bitter feelings he holds toward the brilliant poet and playwright, who had slept with Simon’s wife. His search takes him to London, where Will made his name, as well as to his enemies, since with one of his dying breaths Shakespeare accuses the Earl of Southampton.

Simon’s resourcefulness knows no bounds, as he befriends Ben Jonson, becomes an agent of Sir Francis Bacon, and is nearly killed three times to try to deter him from learning the truth. He must also battle palace intrigue on his mission to track down as many of Will’s fellow playwrights and players as he can to fulfill that pledge to his dying friend.

Former journalist Hays accomplishes a tour-de-force in transporting us back 400 years to the time of both Puritans and debauchery. He died this year, so sequels featuring this intrepid constable may not materialize, but this plausible version of an unsolved mystery involving 32 characters stitches together historical facts with imagination to yield a satisfying conclusion.