Mar 252014

Cover for Rotten at the Heart by Bartholomew Daniels [a white, illustrated hand holding a dagger stabs upward; the dagger is covered in realistic-looking blood; the background is the black, leathery texture of an old book.]London, 1596. With their patron’s mysterious death and their Puritan landlord’s sudden determination to evict them, William Shakespeare and the Lord Chamberlain’s Men teeter on the brink of ruin. So when the new Baron Carey–son of their late sponsor–reveals to Shakespeare his suspicions that his father was murdered, and demands that Shakespeare use his own powers of observation to ferret out the killer in exchange for Carey’s continued patronage, Will has little choice but to agree. Shakespeare juggles his duties to his troupe with a desultory attempt at playing shamus, only to find himself attacked by a hooded swordsman, his reputation besmirched by a vicious anonymous pamphleteer, and his every move marked by a strange man with a hideously scarred and deformed nose. His professional life unraveling, Shakespeare must now face a personal life destroyed by the tragic consequences of a failed affair, the death of his son Hamnet, and his estrangement from his wife, Anne. Driven at last to serve the truth, Shakespeare uncovers plots inside plots–some stemming from historical ills, some from the new evils of the burgeoning stock exchange, and all seeming aimed as much at Shakespeare as at his late patron. Rooted in historical fact and written in Will’s own accessibly Elizabethan voice, Rotten At the Heart explores the intersection of religion, politics, and corruption, and underscores the sacrifices that honor demands when a troubled man finally discovers his own.