Summary and book reviews of The Spy of Venice by Benet Brandreth

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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  • Published:
    Aug 2018, 448 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Book Summary

Shakespeare in Love meets C. J. Sansom in a historical thriller with a swashbuckling twist - and a hero as you've never seen him before.

August, 1585. England needs its greatest hero to step forward ...

When he is caught by his wife in one ill-advised seduction too many, young William Shakespeare flees Stratford to seek his fortune. Cast adrift in London, Will falls in with a band of players, but greater men have their eye on this talented young wordsmith. England's very survival hangs in the balance and Will finds himself dispatched to Venice on a crucial assignment.

Dazzled by the city's masques and its beauties, he little realizes the peril in which he finds himself. Catholic assassins would stop at nothing to end his mission on the point of their sharpened knives - and lurking in the shadows is a killer as clever as he is cruel.

Suspenseful, seductive, and as sharp as an assassin's blade, The Spy of Venice introduces a major new literary talent to the genre - thrilling if you've never read a word of Shakespeare and sublime if you have.

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...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

From the very structure of this book – as a play in five acts with interludes, prologue and epilogue – to the prose and dialogue so true to the Sixteenth Century, to The Spy of Venice's intricate plot, I believe that Brandreth does Shakespeare proud.   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

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Media Reviews

Library Journal
This series opener by the rhetoric coach to the Royal Shakespeare Company is great fun for Shakespeare fans as well as those who enjoy smart language and a grand adventure.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. What if William Shakespeare was an intelligence agent before he became a playwright? That's the clever premise of Brandreth's impressive first novel. Brandreth plausibly and imaginatively fills a gap in the historical record of the Bard's life.

Booklist
Starred Review. Shakespeare! The lunatic, the lover, the poet. The spy. Royal Shakespeare Company rhetoric coach Brandreth brings considerable expertise to his subject in a story rich in humor and intrigue. The dialogue and characters borrow heavily and delightfully from the Bard himself. Bravo!

The Daily Mail (UK)
Entertaining and ebullient. The author knows his Shakespeare backwards (the Venice setting has been carefully chosen), rejoices in its wordplay, loves his allusions and has a good time with his characters. So did I.

Historical Novels Society
Historically accurate, building up a picture of a dirty and violent London, a sumptuously degenerate Venice and a Europe riddled with conflicts of religion, power and commerce. Ultimately The Spy of Venice is an amusing and fast-paced action thriller that will entertain a variety of readers.

The Times (UK)
A playful and inventive debut. The dialogue is wonderful, and Will's banter with his fellow actors sparkles.

Crime Squad (UK)
This is a clever book. On the level of storytelling alone, this is a good yarn. I also had the distinct impression that Benet Brandreth had a ball whilst writing it. An excellent read.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Shakespeare and the Double Entendre

In Benet Brandreth's The Spy of Venice, William Shakespeare is a brilliant wordsmith but still a young man with all of a young man's appetite for adventure and women. He's witty with a rapier-like pen and rakish sense of humor. But wait. Many people reading Shakespeare's plays might doubt that the Bard of Avon had much of a sense of humor at all. Even the so-called comedies, they might argue, are only moderately humorous.

So is Brandreth's characterization of a brilliantly witty Shakespeare total fabrication? Or is it conceivable that old Will might have been the Stephen Colbert of his time? Very much so the latter. The operative word to consider is "time." As with anything intended to be funny, two of the most ...

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