I am always reminded of the lack of well written, creative mysteries for middle grade readers, by the constant requests from young customers and by the lack of them on the shelves. That's what prompted me to repost this review of Elise Broach's fantastic book. Shakespeare's Secret is a complex mystery with intriguing historical and literary plot threads.
I think that Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach is definitely a descendant of the amazing EL Konigsburg's From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler and The Second Mrs Giaconda, which involve works by Micheangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Shakespeare's Secret is also part of the (growing, I hope) tradition of contemporary novels for children that involve famous artists, writers, historical figures and/or works of art, such as Blue Balliet's Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3 and The Calder Game, which involve the artist Johannes Vermeer, the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the mobile sculptor, Alexander Calder.
This story is almost equal parts real life girl story, family drama and historical drama. There are a mysteries intertwined with each story, some more compelling than others, but all intriguing and exciting to read. Hero and Beatrice's names are from Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, the play her parents were studying when they met in a college English class. However, because Shakespeare is her dad's "thing" Hero has never read the play. At her mother's insistence, Hero introduces herself to the family's older neighbor, Mrs Roth, and the two strike up a friendship over crossword puzzles, cinnamon toast and the Murphy Diamond, which might be hidden in the house Hero's family just moved into. The Murphy Diamond is as the center of the two biggest mysteries of the book, one which involves the characters in the story, a sick wife, a runaway daughter and an absentee mom. The other mystery is the lineage of the necklace that the diamond belongs to, a necklace that Mrs Roth has in her possession. With the help of her father, Hero discovers that the necklace belonged to Anne Boleyn. It was then passed on through the descendants of Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, making it's way to Mr Murphy's wife. Woven into the plot of Shakespeare's Secret are speculations on the true nature of de Vere's relationship with Queen Elizabeth I and theories supporting the idea that Edward de Vere may have been the true author of the plays of William Shakespeare.