Excerpt from The Spy of Venice by Benet Brandreth, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Spy of Venice

A William Shakespeare Mystery

by Benet Brandreth

The Spy of Venice by Benet Brandreth X
The Spy of Venice by Benet Brandreth
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2018, 448 pages
    Dec 10, 2019, 448 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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Print Excerpt

When Hunt finally spoke it was as the angry wheezing of steam from cracks in the earth. 'You know full well of what we speak, Shakespeare. This is the fruit of the untrammelled licence of which I spoke at the play. Where is your boy?'

For William, the silence that followed Hunt's demand opened wide as a snare. He knew he had been more burden to his father of late than aid. To defy Lucy, even in the pompous form of his steward Hunt, was no minor matter. William realized he was holding his breath.

'I think you are mistaken, Master Hunt,' John said. 'My son could not have been poaching as you suggest for he has been here at his work all night.'

Hunt made a wet sound of incredulity.

'You doubt me, sir?' John demanded. 'With what reason?' There was a cold timbre to John Shakespeare's voice.

'I know it was him,' Hunt said.

'You did not see him, did not catch him and it is clear by your choice of words that this girl has made no confession,' John Shakespeare responded. 'Who is she? Some scullery maid full of fine fancies?'

'She is no such thing …' Hunt's voice trailed off.

John said nothing but let the silence grow. William thought his moment ripe.

'How now, Father? Master Hunt.'

William's voice was light as he emerged from the back room and laid cut leather, hastily gathered from the storeroom, upon the counter.

'Whelp, what mischief have you performed?' said Hunt.

William feigned confusion and astonishment at Hunt's question.

'I, sir?'

'Don't play the fool with me, boy,' said Hunt.

'I never play, sir,' William said, 'though I have tried my hand as a player …'

'You have tried to seduce -' Even as he sought to cut William off, Hunt's voice trailed away at the thought of acknowledging out loud his shame. '- that which I would keep most safe from such as you,' he finished.

William raised an eyebrow. 'Some kind of treasure? A jewel of some kind?'

'Far more than that,' said Hunt.

'A magical item, then,' said William. 'A golden fleece!'

'What?' spluttered Hunt.

William leaned across the counter towards Hunt. 'You should take great care of such things, Master Hunt. For you will find that many Jasons come in quest of the prize and a fleece will not guard itself. It needs a good guard dog.'

'Enough, William,' the older Shakespeare cut his son off.

John Shakespeare turned to Hunt. 'It's clear that you make your accusations without foundation. I say again, my son was at his work all night. Here.'

Hunt made no immediate reply. There were further rumblings from deep within the massy torso. Heat spread up his face. He leaned in and rested meaty hands on the counter, which creaked beneath the weight.

'Very well, very well. This is to be the game?'

He pointed an eloquent finger at the father and son, then turned to leave; no speedy process for so large a man. Eventually the barge of his body turned. As Hunt passed through the door he gave no backward glance but simply repeated his promise from the play.

'I'll not be mocked.'

The grim-visaged gamekeepers followed after.

The slap of his father's hand on the counter snatched William's smile away.

'What has passed here?' his father demanded.

William drew breath to answer but could not speak before his father slapped the counter again.

'Mark you, not one false word. Not one. By God, William, you try me.'

His hand fluttered on the counter where it lay. William could not take his eye from its twitching.

Excerpted from The Spy of Venice by Benet Brandreth, published by Pegasus Books. © Benet Brandreth. Reprinted with permission from the publisher. All other rights reserved.

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