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Friday, 7 January 2011

Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble

I received this box set of two crime collections edited by Mike Ashley as one of my Crimbo pressies and mighty pleased I was too. I have several Mike Ashley edited crime collections on my shelves - Historical Whodunnits is an excellent collection as is Roaring Twenties Whodunnits and whilst his Shakespearean Whodunnits may at first glance seem heavy going nothing could be further from the truth.

Between them the two books contain over forty entertaining crime short stories using Shakespearean characters as the driving force behind the stories - we get the three witches from the Scottish play turning into amateur sleuths, the midsummer night's dream become a midsummer nightmare and Romeo and Juliet have a different kind of affair. The reader doesn't need to have any knowledge of Shakespeare in order to enjoy these tales which are written in a straight forward prose style, though editor Mike Ashley does provide some interesting notes in his introduction to each story.

Of course one of the biggest mysteries of all is who was Shakespeare and Mike Ashley addresses this question in an informative essay that starts the first volume. I'm hardly a Shakespearean scholar myself and I did learn something from this piece and I found myself enjoying this book greatly. In fact the book made my look at Shakespeare and his plays in a different light - too much emphasis on the works in school have given many the impression that these plays were heavy literature when in fact they were the pot boilers  (should that be cauldron-boilers?)  of their day.I've read most of the stories in each volume and will no doubt read the remainders pretty soon - it's a collection that can be dipped into from time to time and non Shakespearean readers will get just as much enjoyment from these quirky stories as those familiar with the great bard - whoever he was!

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