Showing posts with label Shakespeare. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shakespeare. Show all posts

Feb 29, 2016

Almost Caught Up with Shakespeare

Last week I sort of reviewed PLAN X, so I'll finish that today. I really liked the book: likable main character, good connection to Shakespeare's work, and lots of action.
It's sad that we don't hear about books like this in the glut of stuff on the market. I get tired of hearing big publishers scream about "exquisitely written" novels (that aren't) and "compelling protagonists" (that make me yawn), but the whole deal in publishing today is hype. PLAN X is a good book. There were a couple of unresolved issues at the end, but since it's a series, I'm guessing that was intentional.

Today's book is the third of the Shakespeare-related novels the four of us as promoting in the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death. NINE DAYS TO EVIL  begins with the disappearance of a young woman's successful doctor husband. As police search for him, readers learn more about him, his wife, and their friends...and Shakespeare. I'll leave it to you to figure that one out!

Next week I'll talk about my own tribute to the Bard, SHAKESPEARE'S BLOOD.

Feb 22, 2016

Shakespearean Mysteries: PLAN X

I'm focusing on four modern novels related to Shakespeare and his works, since 2016 is the 400th anniversary of my favorite writer's death.
Last week's book, MACDEATH, was a cozy set in a theater, and I enjoyed it very much.
My plan was to read a book each week for three weeks (mine is the 4th), but that didn't happen. I started reading THE ALCHEMIST'S DAUGHTER and had to finish it. (Loved it!)

What I present here, therefore, is an overview from the Amazon page, with reviews from those who have read PLAN X. What I saw there convinced me that it's a book I do want to read, so I bought it for my Kindle. Before next Monday I plan to read this one and hopefully the last one of the four, NINE DAYS TO EVIL.

PLAN X is billed as an international thriller for those who love intrigue, secrets, and spies. The protagonist begins in Montana, goes to Washington, DC., and finally across the ocean in search of answers to a puzzle.

"PLAN X is both thrilling and sophisticated. In a serpentine story that races from small-town Montana to the vaulted halls of Windsor Castle, nothing is as it seems, including the works of the great Shakespeare himself. Former military and current police officer Cody Byrne is unforgettable-- a heroine you want to root for. I love this book! "
--New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author J. Carson Black

Amazon readers like the book, and scanning their comments, I decided I might like it as well. One mentioned not liking the cover, and I'll confess that while I don't hate it, I don't love it, either. However, I am the world's third worst judge of cover art (at least in the bottom ten). Some hint of the Bard's presence in either the title or the cover art would have helped me pick this book out of the thousands that are tossed at me each week by book-recommendation sites. (Because you know I am a Shakespeare geek!)

I'll begin reading today. The only fear I have is that it will turn out the author thinks Queen Elizabeth wrote Shakespeare's stuff for him--in her spare time. :)

I'll provide my personal reaction in next week's blog.

Feb 16, 2016


Four authors are observing the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death by showing off their Bard-related mysteries. I'm going to focus on one at a time, so this week it's Cindy Brown's Macdeath.
Here are some things I like/love about the book.
*It's a cozy--amateur sleuth, small cast of characters who all know each other--but it never descends to the silliness I despise in some cozies. People act like real people (even if they are all actors). :)
*It takes place in a theater. Anyone who knows my drama director background can guess I'd like that.
*The play Macbeth is woven into the story. Anyone who knows my English teacher background will know I loved that.
*The main character is real. I felt like she was someone I've known, or might have.
*The author has a sense of story. I particularly liked the connection between the first line and the last.
*...and who doesn't love that title? Makes me wish I'd thought of it!

Here are the other three books, which I'll talk about in the weeks to come:

Feb 9, 2016

Books with a Theme: SHAKESPEARE'S BLOOD

Last week's post was about four authors who've joined together to celebrate Shakespeare's work. We've each written a mystery, set in modern times, that connects to the Bard. That led me to wonder who the other authors were and why they chose Shakespeare as a theme for their books. Here's what I found out.

Nancy G. West, who wrote NINE DAYS TO EVIL, ( tried to convince herself to love business, but writing was always tugging on her sleeve. She went back to college and studied English literature. I can guess there was some time spent on the works of you-know-who.

                    Lise McClendon, author of PLAN X     (–x likes Gothic novels (which were my faves growing up) and thrillers (which PLAN X is). What could be more natural than combining those things with Shakespeare's work? Love, blood, a little scary stuff--It's perfect.

Cindy Brown's book MACDEATH ( is nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. How's that for entering the scene with panache? Ms. Brown is a self-described theater geek, and we know those folks get lots of Shakespeare along with their Simon and Sondheim.

And of course there's me: the reformed English teacher who came up with SHAKESPEARE'S BLOOD ( Macbeth was one of my favorite things to teach, and when I thought of writing a run-around-trying-not-to-die suspense novel, the Bard just naturally butted in and put himself in the center of it all.

Celebrate Will's 400th with us by reading a Shakespearean mystery: try one--try them all!

Jan 4, 2016

Blood & Guts in Mysteries

 In classic Greek theater, violence happens offstage. If someone's going to kill himself, he tells you so then exits. If the hero and the bad guy engage in a duel to the death, they'll thrust and parry "stage right and exeunt." Only one will return. It's partly good taste, the belief that audiences shouldn't have to see such things. I suspect the other part is more practical: a good death scene is difficult to stage--and what do you do with the corpse afterward?

Shakespeare takes the easy way many times, too. People come in carrying dead bodies, like Lear bearing poor Cordelia; or parts of them, as Macduff does with Macbeth's head. Easy to make a fake head, not so easy to make it appear the head of a living actor is being separated from his body.

Today we have all kinds of tricks to make on-stage deaths look real. If you've seen the Three Musketeers decapitate the evil Milady just as the theater goes dark, or the trick of light in Les Miserables that makes it seem Javert is falling to his death, you know how effective those moments can be. Don't get me started on blood and gore in movies. Just don't.

In books, written descriptions of death have become more and more lurid, especially in mysteries, and I for one don't like it. Call me soft, but I don't want to read details of how a terrified victim is killed by inches by a crazed antagonist. Since I don't like to read that stuff, I don't write it.

I just re-read my most murder-filled novel, Shakespeare's Blood. Victims in the book are killed in ways that mimic deaths in Shakespeare's plays, so they're not pretty. What I did to dial back the horror is keep the violence mostly off the page. Bodies are found, and readers learn what happened to them, but you don't have to be there and watch it happen. That creates suspense and concern for the protagonist, an American tourist in Britain who's being chased by a madman. We know what awaits Mercedes if he catches up with her, but we don't have to dwell on how we know it.

I re-read the book last week, because another author contacted me to say that April 23rd is the 500th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. Her book concerns the Bard too, and she wondered if we should do some shared promotion. I agreed, so we'll see what we can put together.

Either way, I like my way of presenting murder. It's never nice to kill someone, but it's a tiny bit nicer if the readers don't know all the gory details.

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