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

The Spy of Venice

John Shakespeare closed the shop door behind him. His troublesome son was sitting before the fire, one leg thrown over the arm of the chair.

'Morning, Father.' William twisted round in the chair and smiled.

'I take it there is a reason, other than the desire to purchase gloves,' replied his father, 'that means Mathew Hunt approaches in the company of two of Sir Thomas Lucy's larger gamekeepers?'

William sprang from the chair.

'Merciful God.'

He was at the door in a moment and opened it a crack to peer into the street. Advancing majestically down the road was a triangle of men, the vast bulk of Hunt in the van. William's father rolled his eyes to heaven.

'Father,' William whispered, 'it would be a good thing if Hunt were not to find me.'

He dashed to the storeroom door and darted inside.

John Shakespeare slowly pulled off his gloves. He took care not to harm the embroidered lace cuffs that adorned them. He shrugged off his heavy cloak and laid it next to the gloves on the countertop. His son popped out of the storeroom, threw his father an embarrassed grimace, raced to the fireplace, picked up a pair of sodden shoes and hurtled back to his hiding place.

John ran thin fingers through greying hair and turned to face the door. Beyond it could be heard the leaden tread of Matthew Hunt approaching.


William pressed against the wall in the storeroom at the back of the shop, hidden from sight. He heard his father move to the shop door and open it.

'Shakespeare. Where is your son?' Hunt's cheeks wobbled, glutinous with the spittle of righteous indignation.

Hunt bustled forward followed by two men whose faces were weather-cut with a thousand little creases like old leather saddles. John Shakespeare moved slowly aside to allow the three men into the small shop.

'Master Hunt,' said John Shakespeare. 'Good morning to you.'

'I've no time for pleasantries, Master Glover,' said Hunt. 'Your son was caught on my lord's estate this morning. Where is he?'

John Shakespeare drew up his eyebrows and pursed his lips. 'I am at a loss, Master Hunt. You say my son was "caught" on Sir Thomas's estate this morning. Yet you come to me to enquire where he is?'

'Don't bandy with me, Shakespeare,' Hunt said. 'I have not the mood for it. Your son was caught -' The great bellows of his voice declined to a wheeze. His mind sought the right word to describe the circumstances of Shakespeare's visit to Sir Thomas Lucy's estate.

'- poaching.' A grimace of relief at the discovery of this euphemism appeared on Hunt's fleshy features. 'Yes, poaching, for which he has a reputation.'

This last was accompanied by a face of high indignation, chins tilted up, eyes pointing down the nose.

'He managed to fly before we could detain him,' Hunt continued. 'Where is he now? I have come to bring him to Sir Thomas to explain himself.'

'He was caught – in the act?' John asked.

'Faith no!' Hunt said. 'I arrived too late for that. There was no mistaking what had been afoot, though! We'd have had him in the woods too, but he slipped the dogs.'

Hunt was looking around the tidy little shop as he spoke, his nose still thrust up as if he could smell out the presence of the insolent villain Shakespeare.

'I am still unclear as to why you think it was my son that you seek?' John asked. 'Was he seen?'

'The girl as good as confessed it,' Hunt answered.

'The girl?' John Shakespeare said. 'I thought we spoke of poaching?'

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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