It seems like the actual murderer tends to be rather easy to guess in murder mysteries, perhaps because being a novel, it is obvious that it is going to be one of the characters already introduced. Still, every once in a while they are well-written, and in those cases, it tends to be the story and motivation that are the most interesting part (and the characters when they are very well done), not just the ending. I picked this up due to the Shakespeare angle, and it had a staff recommendation attached to it.
The novel actually reads very much like The DaVinci Code, except in this case, the story concerns Shakespeare and not DaVinci. This isn't even a bad thing - The DaVinci Code on its own was a very entertaining thriller that just got way too hyped up and seemed to develop a type of cult around it. For some reason, people don't seem to be nearly as interested in Shakespeare as Jesus and DaVinci because I'd never heard of this before. Overall, I would even say it is better written than The DaVinci Code, although it has its flaws. For my tastes, there were just a few too many murders - I would have been happy with just a literary mystery that was started with a murder, and I could have done without the trail of bodies that accumulated in the novel (all the bodies were staged in a way to recall Shakespeare's plays which was a nice touch on the part of the murderer - one person is obviously a homage to Hamlet's father, another is Ophelia, there is a reference to Julius Caesar and his assassination etc.).
The novel begins when Kate, the narrator, receives a visit from her former mentor, Roz (Rosalind Howard), a tenured Shakespeare professor at Harvard, who tells her that she has found something, gives her a box as a gift, and arranges to meet her later. Kate was a Shakespearean PhD student but decided to leave academia to pursue a career as a director, and she is currently directing Hamlet at the Globe - quite the feat for an American woman under 30 as she explains. However, Roz misses the meeting, and there is a fire at the Globe, where Kate finds Roz's body. This leads Kate to open the box, and she soon is on a trail to discover whatever it was that Roz had found. Evidence leads her to believe it may be a manuscript of Cardenio, one of Shakespeare's lost plays.
In some cases, it seemed like the author had so many things she wanted to discuss that the novel was a bit cluttered, and there were a few trails that seemed to be slightly misleading, or at least they were rather long ways of getting to the answer. The novel also addresses the debate regarding Shakespeare's identity, and some of the candidates that have been offered as alternates to the actor from Stratford. Carrell includes scenes with the dark lady and the blond youth of Shakespeare's sonnets but doesn't clearly identify them. Much like in The DaVinci Code, the protagonist finds herself racing from one place to another in search of clues, often doubling back between the States and England. It was mostly an entertaining read though I had my doubts at the beginning. Although Carrell doesn't neatly wrap up all the answers, the murder mystery is neatly, though unoriginally, solved. Basically, good enough entertainment for an afternoon but altogether forgettable.