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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sleep of Death by Philip Gooden

Genre: Historical Mystery

In this novel we have a play within a play within a mystery within a novel.

The play is Hamlet by William Shakespeare.  In this play Hamlet returns home to find that his father is dead and his uncle has married his mother.  Hamlet soon discovers that his father has been murdered.  To uncover the murderer, he stages a play which reenacts the murder.  He finds that his uncle has killed his father.

In this novel, the main character, Nick Revill,  is an actor with the Chamberlain's Men.  This is the group for which Shakespeare writes plays.  They have staged Hamlet several times.  Revill meets William Eliot.  Eliot has an interesting story.  It seems that his father has died in circumstances similar to Hamlet's father.  And Eliot's uncle has married his mother.  Struck by the similarities between the play and his real life, Eliot asks Revill to help him investigate his father's death.  As Revill investigates, the clues seem to point to Shakespeare as the possible murderer. 

The author has organized the novel into a play-like structure.  Like Shakespeare's plays there is a prologue, five acts, and an epilogue.  The story itself is a pleasant read through Elizabethan London, the theater, the pubs, and the houses of ill repute.  The author moves the story along and provides the clues needed to solve the mystery before the final act.  Like Hamlet, a play is used to reveal the villain.  Unlike Hamlet, everybody doesn't die in the final scene.

I enjoyed this novel.  It was a nice read.  And I always feel victorious when I solve the mystery before the author reveals the solution.

Sleep of Death

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