Book review: 'The Shakespeare Manuscript' is a mystery novel about Shakespeare's original 'Hamlet'

By Lauren Zachary

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Aug. 27 2011 4:00 p.m. MDT

"THE SHAKESPEARE MANUSCRIPT," by Stewart Buettner, Performance Art Press, $12.99, 275 pages (f)

With the 50th anniversary of the Utah Shakespeare Festival comes "The Shakespeare Manuscript," the latest mystery novel by Stewart Buettner.

April, a woman who used to be a talented actress; her father Miles, who owns a bookstore; Avery, the current director of a struggling band of actors; and Charles, one of the rebellious actors in the band.

Due to a tragic accident, April, a woman who used to be a talented actress, has abandoned her love of the theater and now rarely ventures outside of her apartment — at least until the day comes when she discovers a manuscript of an earlier version of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" in a box her father sent from England.

Miles, her father and bookstore owner, is on a business trip in London while fighting the increasing problem of his declining memory. His trip goes according to plan until he is mugged outside of London and, due to the blow on his head, he loses his identity altogether.

Avery, the current director of a struggling band of actors, and his band of actors prepares to perform Shakespeare's "Othello" as a hopeful comeback to fame and fortune. But when April shows him the mysterious manuscript of an early version of "Hamlet," everything changes.

Charles, one of the rebellious actors in the band, is angry at the last-minute switch of his performance from Iago in "Othello" to Hamlet's father in the unfamiliar "Hamlet." Yet, Charles has a dark secret harbored by his anger toward the director and toward his estranged son, Christopher.

Then the original manuscript goes missing.

The race to put on the new production is on, but this strange new Shakespearean play takes its toll on everyone involved as they search for the manuscript and begin to discover their true identities, revealing secrets and taking risks along the way. Was the manuscript really written by Shakespeare? Or is it a fraud? And who stole the manuscript?

"The Shakespeare Manuscript" is an interesting read as Buettner weaves this captivating plot by providing a perspective of a different character with each new chapter. This keeps the reader on edge and speculating as to who stole the manuscript until the very end. It does contains a fair amount of foul language and material that may make it difficult to finish.

Lauren Zachary is a recent graduate from Southern Utah University with a degree in English.

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