Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach – Review

Book Jacket:

A missing diamond, a mysterious neighbor, a link to Shakespeare – can Hero uncover the connections?

When Hero starts sixth grade at a new school, she’s less concerned about the literary origins of her Shakespearean name than about the teasing she’s sure to suffer because of it. So she has the same name as a girl in a book by a dusty old author. Hero is simply not interested in the connections.

But that’s just the thing; suddenly connections are cropping up all over, and odd characters and uncertain pasts are exactly what do fascinate Hero. There’s a mysterious diamond hidden in her new house, a curious woman next door who seems to know an awful lot about it, and then, well, then there’s Shakespeare. Not to mention Danny Cordova, only the most popular boy in school. Is it all in keeping with her namesake’s origin-just much ado about nothing? Hero, being Hero, is determined to figure it out.

In this fast-paced novel, Elise Broach weaves an intriguing literary mystery full of historical insights and discoveries.


What an lovely, satisfying, old-fashioned-style mystery this book turned out to be. Now that’s what I call a fun read.

I’ve been hankering for a good mystery yarn of late – not to mention in desperate need of a paranormal palate cleanser – so I was delighted to stumble upon Shakespeare’s Secret during a library crawl. I literally knew nothing about this book, so I was utterly surprised to discover how much I just really, really loved everything about it. This book is just…good. All around good, with a fun leading lady, a wry sense of humor, an intriguing mystery with ties to both past and present, an old house with a secret, mysterious neighbors, a missing diamond, and more, not to mention the perils of the middle school social order. And all of it was just wonderful.

But being the history nerd that I am, I particularly loved the historical ties that wind throughout this story. I learned things about Shakespeare – and the mystery surrounding him – that I never knew before, and I loved how Broach lightly and deftly touched on not only his works, but on the real-life history that surrounded his time, and how effortlessly she laced it all together in her narrative. It made for a downright mesmerizing blend of fact and fiction.

And can I just say how much I love the sense of family that permeates this story? Oh, middle grade, I love you – you actually get to revolve around something other than the Undying Love that has usurped the vast majority of YA, and it was just so marvelously refreshing to read a story about different kinds of relationships. I really enjoyed Hero’s relationship with her sister, who wasn’t mean or petty despite being the popular one, and watching Hero stumble along the path to making new friends, to finding her niche in the social order. It was just fun to read – and now I kind of want to run to the children’s section of the library and set up a tent. 

So really, this book is just delightful. I loved Hero’s middle school woes every bit as much as the unfolding of the mystery, and even learned a few things about Shakespeare along the way. Note to self: must read more past Edgar-award nominees – but first up Ill be reading Elise Broach’s latest, because I’ve already got it on hold at the library.

Oh, how I love finding a good book…

Byrt Grade: A

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

School Library Journal says:

Elise Broach’s debut mystery is a gem…An engrossing mystery that touches several historical elements.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review) says:

More linear and traditionally evidence-driven than Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer, this agreeable history-mystery may have even more appeal to budding sleuths.