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The Spy of Venice

(William Shakespeare Thriller #1)

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  418 ratings  ·  86 reviews
CJ Samson meets Shakespeare in Love - a historical thriller with a swashbuckling twist and a hero like you've never seen him before.

When he's caught out by 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
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published March 24th 2016 by twenty7 (first published February 24th 2016)
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Benet Brandreth If by this you mean professional reviews then I am delighted to say the answer is yes:

"...The Spy of Venice is a playful and inventive debut. The…more
If by this you mean professional reviews then I am delighted to say the answer is yes:

"...The Spy of Venice is a playful and inventive debut. The dialogue is wonderful and Will's banter with his fellow actor's sparkles." -Antonia Senior, The Times.

UPDATE - and the Lancashire Evening Post - ‘gloriously escapist…a thrilling drama that would surely have tickled the ribs of the great man himself…authentic dialogue, a fine line in imaginative plotting and a hero who leads his cast tenderly by the nose, Brandreth has conjured up what might well be the start of an exciting and unique new series.’

UPDATE 2: And the Daily Mail: "... this entertaining and ebullient story... The author knows his Shakespeare backwards (the Venice setting has been carefully chosen), rejoices in its wordplay, loves his allusions and has a good time with his characters. So did I." (less)

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Average rating 3.59  · 
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Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Scrapes a 4! I found this hard to get into and the extremely short chapters but extremely long titles, kept breaking my focus. Nevertheless, I ended up enjoying the story and the atmosphere created in this novel.
The historical context was interesting. Protestant Britain sought allies against Catholic Spain and the Pope. Venice, centred on trade, was autonomous from Rome and could be appealed to by Britain for support. Spies, spies everywhere!
Into this mix steps William Shakespeare in his
***2018 Summer of Spies***

William Shakespeare as a character was the hook that persuaded me to pick up this historical espionage novel, but really virtually any well-known man from the period could have substituted successfully in the role. I kind of turned off the “Shakespeare detector” in my brain in order to enjoy the novel as much as I did.

Picture Shakespeare as kind of an Elizabethan James Bond, learning his way around Venice and Venetians and trying to fulfill the mission that he
May 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this look at what Shakespeare could have been doing in his "missing years." Going into this, you need to know it's all imagination and what might have been.

It was so much fun to me to see how Shakespeare might have decided to write what he later did and who, what and where inspired his writings. He gets himself tangled in some mischief and drama, which is also interesting and gives it a thriller-suspense feel in parts. This book which features Shakespeare as a character
This is a historical thriller that features one Will Shakespeare. Yes, that one! It is constructed to fill in the gaps in the life of the William Shakespeare and is in the form of a play which works superbly. Much as the plays of Shakespeare, this story has everything from action, romance and suspense to make it a gripping and compelling read. After being caught out in sexual shenanigans, Will hotfoots it to London. Whilst he is there mingling with London society, he is given a mission to carry ...more
Jun 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Oh, how I read most of this book wrong! May I explain? There is a Prologue, 4 Interludes, 5 Acts and an Epilogue. During the Acts there are titles of short sections. One title is "Every gash was an enemy's grave" and there is text on half the page which ends with these 2 lines: "Isabella looked down at her bleeding palms, scraped and chafed against the rough bricks of the alley. Soberly she strode into her house." The 'titles', I think, are quotes from Shakespeare, and the action of the sections ...more
Oct 03, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Disjointed, annoying writing. No suspense, only boredom. Historical fiction at its worst.
Feb 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley, 2016
The Spy of Venice by Benet Brandreth is a speculation about what Shakespeare did those years when history has no record about him and how come does he knows so much about Italy. The story was interesting but it was not engaging. It contradiction, I know, but that's how it was. The story about young Shakespeare's adventures in Stratford, London, on a way to Venice and in Venice, its all interesting, but it was really easy to stop reading and to chose something else to do instead of reading and ...more
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the first time I've read a contemporary book set in Shakespeare's world that really had the feel of the period. Anyone who sets up to fictionalize Shakespeare has a challenge on his hands just writing in language that doesn't sound pathetic next to the original; Benet Brandreth has met that challenge ably. The plot is twisty and exciting; I'd have been certain this irresponsible young man, Will, could never survive the intrigues he's gotten involved in except that his last name is ...more
Jane Willis
For most of this book I was thoroughly enjoying it and looking forward to giving it a 5 star rating. But in the final hundred or so pages, it seemed to go rapidly downhill. There was so much plotting and counter plotting, with long accounts of fights, brawls and squabbles, that I rapidly lost interest. Elements that apparently had been brought in to add intrigue and suspense just seemed scrappy and untidy. I'll spare you the details because they would be spoilers, I'll just say the book is worth ...more
Margaret Sankey
Jun 23, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a promising procedural pastiche, giving Shakespeare a role on Sir Francis Walsingham's spy network, and contextualizing the casual cruelty of Elizabeth life. The background research is solid, and the in-joke, like "exit, pursued by a bear," are well-handled.
Aug 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
We’ve got an odd relationship with Shakespeare in Britain. Sayings from his plays pepper our language and English teachers wrestle with the problem of how to work his sixteenth century plays into the timetable of twenty-first century teenagers because they believe (some of the more romantic anyway) that they’re part of the literary and cultural heritage of our country. And you just need to pay a short visit to his birthplace at Stratford-on-Avon to see that the fascination with the Bard and his ...more
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was way more fun than it had any right to be. How does young, bored 21 year glove maker apprentice William Shakespeare make his way from Stratford to London and then on to Venice? Europe in 1585 is a dangerous place and danger finds Shakespeare even in his little corner of England. Joining a company of players -- including Nick Oldcastle and John Heminges -- Shakespeare finds himself at the center of a political/religious/revenge plot launched by the newly elected Pope Sixtus V and ...more
Jun 18, 2018 rated it liked it
The story starts with William Shakespeare at the age of 20, married with three children and dreaming about play-writing.

As players traverse towns to act their new plays, once in Stratford-Upon-Avon, William’s hometown, Will convinces them to act a play he just wrote that morning. It is well-received and his talent is recognized. He is encouraged to join the company as they are on the way to London.

Once Will is in London and story starts alternating between London and Venice, it is scattered.
Feb 04, 2018 rated it liked it
A witty, literate take on Shakespeare's lost years - as an unwilling but capable spy in Italy. The bard's own words are cleverly used, and the intrigue, though very complicated [too many characters?] moves along at a good pace. I would certainly read young William's further adventures overseas ...
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: life, adventure, thriller
This is a really entertaining book. But first things first. This is not a biography, this is a work of fiction, placing William Shakespeare in an adventure in Venice. The Author really makes it fun though. Then explains a little of Shakespeares lost years. So instead of a Theorie, the author launches a complete adventure of what might have been.
Shakespeare turns out was a good spook. Ok, not James Bond, especially in this book. But the spark and ideas are great. Why couldn't Shakespeare base his
Daniel Villa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: historical
I bought this book because I love Shakespeare and thought it was an awesome idea to put him as a character in a book. I was a little bit disappointed that it did not feature anything that happened in Shakespeare's actual life. I'm afraid this book is nothing as good as C.J. Sansom's books as the summary suggests.
There are some entertaining twists and turns and some names from Shakespeare's plays are names of the characters which I liked.
However, I found connecting or sympathising with the
Simon Binning
Apr 10, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book in a long time I haven't manage to finish. The idea is a good one - fill in the missing gap in Shakespeare's young life. But the story is all over the place; I'm not sure if the author is sure what style he wants to write in; at times he apes Shakespeare himself, at others it is almost a pastiche of Dumas. It is full of people who are obviously meant to be inspiration for his own future characters. Most of the events stretch credibility well beyond breaking point, and it ...more
Marie (UK)
William shakespeare in an alternate life? I am not sure what this book sets out to achieve. I found it quite difficult to absorb, I don't understand the need to title ever chapter in this wordy manner - I end up not reading the titles. For me it just went on a bit. Was it meant to mirror one of his plays or just be the setting he would use for his later plays? I am not sure I see Shakespeare as the person in this book.
Francesca Bridgewater
Well written in pseudo contemporary language. Not too bothered by the conceit that Shakespeare might have gone to Venice, but slightly bothered by how well they all conversed in Latin. Even accepting that they would have been better at it than current speakers. Maybe that’s reasonable. As a plot it was a little far fetched but interesting insights into contemporary Venetian life.
Nov 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
Could not complete: abandoned at 75%.
Amandeep Sibia
May 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Decent enough. Slow to actually get going and then extremely rapid through the final few chapters. Almost gave up and not totally satisfied having got through it.
Clemens Schoonderwoert
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
All of a sudden and to my surprise this delightful book came to my attention, and I have to admit that the book has been a most fascinating and thrilling read.
This wonderful debut novel by this new author about the exploits of William Shakespeare really got me gripped from start to finish, and it did give me great joy overall, and although I'm not familiar with these kind of phrases symbolising Shakespeare, for me they have been very educative and in this book you'll find plenty of them, still I
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Just where did William Shakespeare disappear to when he left Stratford-upon-Avon and headed to London? Well, first of all, as Benet Brandreth tells it, wherever he went was at the relief of his family. Will is a troublemaker and womanizer, two attributes that get him in more and more trouble in Brandreth’s novel.

Will heads to Venice, Italy, as part of a band of players accompanying an English ambassador seeking funds to help arm England against Spain. William is young, headstrong, unheedful of
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing. It reads kinda like a Shakespeare play in the language and the humor, but it also reveals a lot of real historical information about him and Stratford and Venice. The point of the series is that there are 7 years missing from his life, and at the end of those years he had a skill as a playwright and knowledge of places that the years of his life before the missing part wouldn't account for. Somehow he gained first hand knowledge and skill. The premise of these novels is ...more
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a fun romp through what might have happened during the seven years about which we know nothing of what happened during Shakespeare's life. It's particularly appealing if you know or already like Shakespeare, but I think it's a good enough yarn to appeal to readers who just enjoy historical fiction too, even if you aren't a major Shakespeare fan already. It's also clearly written by a man who knows his stuff, as it's extremely well-researched. (Makes sense--it's written by the guy who is ...more
The concept of William Shakespeare as a spy sounded like good fun with plenty of scope as he is a somewhat sketchy character in reality.
The writing is competent and the possibilities are touched upon but the book simply felt too long and drawn out - fight scenes with every single detail described at length, intrigue and plotting to an incredibly convoluted degree served to slow the pace down to one where it was very easy to lose interest.
Though the love of the subject matter is clearly
Vicki Kohl
Oct 25, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this because I'm a Shakespeare fan. Brandreth knows his Shakespeare and his dropping in lines from the plays as bits of dialogue or thought. Some of it works, and some of it seems to draw attention to itself too much. However, this may smooth out in subsequent novels as it did in Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen series.

There are some heartwarming relationships developed among some of the characters, and it seems that Shakespeare is still in the somewhat dangerous Venice at the end. Of
Oct 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was interesting speculative historical fiction of Shakespeare’s lost years. The author is the rhetoric coach to the Royal Shakespeare Theater, so he knows his stuff - but maybe a bit too well? There’s a lot of detail and wordplay and references that I’m sure as a casual fan I missed. The plot also gets quite convoluted - just a hair too much, there really parts that just bogged down. I liked how Will grew and matured throughout the book. But I might have liked some of the fictional ...more
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Benet Brandreth is an expert on Shakespeare's language and times, the rhetoric coach to the Royal Shakespeare Company and others, and a writer and performer whose last one-man show was a five-star reviewed sell-out at the Edinburgh Fringe and on its London Transfer. On top of all that he is a leading IP barrister. The Spy of Venice is his debut novel.

(Source: Amazon)

Other books in the series

William Shakespeare Thriller (2 books)
  • The Assassin of Verona (William Shakespeare Thriller #2)