As William Shakespeare lies dying, he calls his childhood friend, Constable Simon Saddler, to his bedside and gives him one last charge: “Find my killer.”
This coming April 23, 2016 will be the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. (The 450th anniversary of his birth was on the same date in 2014; he died on his birthday, only 52 years old.) The cause of his short illness and sudden death has been a mystery for four centuries. Novelist Tony Hays takes up the challenge to conjecture upon what might have happened, and assigns a fictitious Stratford-upon-Avon police constable to investigate. The friends since childhood fell out over Will’s womanizing ways with Simon’s wife. But Saddler is forced to look into Shakespeare’s recent past as well as his possible murder. Will’s glittering life in London amidst the licentious nobility might have made him enemies among the powerful and wealthy.
King James I is remembered today for his eponymous Bible, but at the time his court was known as “corrupt and depraved.” Shakespeare might have had a hand in the Bible translation, even putting his own name into Psalm 46; did he also write love letters for the king to his royal “favourites”? The Overbury Affair, which culminated in a murder by poison, rocked the court and may have had echoes in Will’s life. (It was the subject of a 1961 Edgar winning book by Miriam Allen deFord.) Nearly all the characters in Shakespeare No More are real—and famous, including Ben Jonson, the aristocracy, Will’s family members, and the Globe players. The Globe and the other London theatres were home to the Internet/cinema/TV of their time: high-energy mass entertainment, competing with public executions and bull and bear baiting. As Kirkus Reviews said on July 1, 2015, “Hays pens an excellent mystery replete with historical detail, surely meant to have been the first in a series that sadly will be cut short by his recent death.”
Tennessean Tony Hays said he was a tinker/tailor/soldier/spy during his life, visiting 30 countries and living in seven. He was no stranger to government service and undercover journalism. When he turned to thriller writing, PW said of his earlier series: “Numerous talented writers have taken up Ellis Peters’s mantle by setting their plots throughout the Middle Ages. Today’s best in this period include Tony Hays, who had the intriguing idea of combining Camelot with crime…. One of the best in the medieval field today.” The series has collected 9 starred reviews and an RT Book Award nomination. Tony Hays died in Egypt in 2015 at the age of 58.