In her latest novel, Lindsay Faye, who has previously riffed on works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Charlotte Brontë, sets her sights on an even more ambitious target—Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In 21st-century New York City, the fabulously wealthy Dane family runs the New World’s Stage, a prestigious avant-garde theater.
Its founder, Jackson Dane, who fought to rebuild after a devastating fire destroyed the World Stage’s original landmark building, was found dead a month ago. But was it suicide, or an accidental overdose of prescription medications? Two weeks later, Jackson’s beautiful widow, Trudy, secretly marries his younger brother Claude. Jackson and Trudy’s brilliant, charismatic, and fragile only son, Benjamin Dane, despises his uncle Claude and suspects foul play.
Ben has anxiety, ADHD, a master’s degree from Columbia in Philosophical Foundations of Physics, and pops pills like candy. His gay best friend and former roommate, British academic Horatio Patel (who is hopelessly in love with Ben), flies in from London in response to Ben’s desperate text: “get here please I think I’m losing my mind.”
The chapters alternate among the points of view of Horatio, Ben, and Ben’s ex-fiancée Lia Brahms, an alcoholic artist who specializes in elaborate floral installations and is the daughter of the theater’s general manager, Paul Brahms. Several characters from other Shakespeare plays—Ariel, Robin Goodfellow, the three Weird Sisters—are also featured in significant roles. Like the original Hamlet, the novel raises questions about love and madness, crime and guilt, free will versus destiny, life and death, life after death, the workings of the cosmos, and, especially, the nature of time.
The contemporary setting and sensibility enable the story to play out in ways that will keep readers guessing, whether they are hardcore fans of the Bard or just read a play or two in high school English class. Instead of seeing Jackson’s ghost, Ben finds videos in which his father expresses paranoia that someone is watching and plotting against him.
The author pulls out all the stops in this anything-but-conventional detective story, delivering brilliant writing, biting social commentary, crackling dialog, compelling characters, and astute psychological insight, blended with elements of horror, suspense, and the supernatural.