The Merchant of Vengeance

Written by Simon Hawke
Review by Nicole Leclerc

Picture Shakespeare as a sleuth – this is what Hawke offers in this mystery series set in Elizabethan London.

A young Will and his friend Tuck get involved in the murder of a young man, recently rejected by his bride-to-be’s father because of his Jewish mother. Despite the seriousness of the topic, the story is light, more romance than mystery. The youth of the main characters are reflected in their constant bickering and name-calling which soon become tiresome. The reader is effectively transported to that era and enlightened by Hawke on topics ranging from why the Jews became moneylenders, to the impact of firearms on the armoury trade, to the Company of Watermen on the Thames.

Hawke excels at bringing to life the inner workings of a theatre. However, he strives too much to match his story to the famous author, in its exploration of the issue of Jews in Shakespearean England, in the dialogue which incorporates many of Shakespeare’s written words, and in the “cutesy” names of some characters (Shy Locke!).The plot is thin as is Shakespeare’s role as a detective and won’t satisfy most mystery aficionados. Still, if you’re in the mood for an entertaining, informative book, you could do worse then spend some time with this pair of friends.