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.
What if William Shakespeare was an intelligence agent before he became a playwright? That's the clever premise of Brandreth's impressive first novel. In 1585, the 20-year-old William, who's been working half-heartedly in the family glove trade, leaves Stratford-upon-Avon at the urging of his father after the discovery of his affair with a young woman, Alice Hunt, whose father, a steward to the local MP, could do him harm. William heads to London, where he becomes an actor and meets Sir Henry Carr, the English ambassador to Venice. Sir Henry, who's embarking on a delicate diplomatic mission, is looking for actors to be part of the delegation. With his country under threat from Spain, France, and the Netherlands, he hopes that the offer of a trade deal will persuade the Venetians to ally with England. William signs on and travels to Venice, where he must contend with various perils, including Catholic assassins. Brandreth, the rhetoric coach to the Royal Shakespeare Company, plausibly and imaginatively fills a gap in the historical record of the Bard's life.