I love Shakespeare. And like any red-blooded American, I love a good conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theories are the backbone of this country. Since I am not only an American, but also a lover of English literature, I love conspiracy theories about who was the “true” author of Shakespeare’s plays. So when I was offered The Cottage to read and review, I thought it was a perfect match.
The Cottage is a mystery novel that revolves around Jack Duncan, a documentary filmmaker, who is trying to get to the bottom of the Shakespeare conspiracy whilst also trying to solve the mystery of what happened to his missing fiancée. If that sounds a bit odd and like it doesn’t tie in together–it’s because it doesn’t. The mystery and plots of The Cottage are so disjointed and confusing, that I honestly don’t know how to write a decent summary of this book. So I’ll just give you the official summary.
Filmmaker Jack Duncan knows almost nothing about Terri Osborne, but is so entranced by her that he proposes, and, to his surprise, she accepts. Celebrating in an Omaha restaurant known as a hangout for actors, Duncan is distracted by a stranger who tries to interest him in filming a story about a mystery hundreds of years old. While his back is turned, Terri vanishes—from both the present and, it seems, from the past, as though she had existed for only a few months.
Duncan eventually summons police for help in finding Terri, but then realizes that he is their main suspect in her disappearance. As his arrest seems imminent he is sent to England to oversee a filmed quest for the “real” Shakespeare. But Duncan’s “escape” to England is not so lucky after all. The Keepers of the Shakespeare Myth have some nasty surprises waiting for him. And the pleasant old literary mystery leads him straight into a timeless nightmare in which no one can be trusted and he himself may be the villain.
The investigation in Nebraska becomes inexplicably intertwined with the mysteries in England and a race ensues to determine who will be lucky enough to destroy Jack Duncan and bury the truth about Shakespeare for good.
I was so confused by the end of this book that I honestly didn’t know how to approach this review. So I’m just going to give it you straight. The characters are one-dimensional. The plot and subplots make little to no sense. Towards the end of the book, we are introduced to even more plot with regards to Jack Duncan’s life and his missing fiancée and we leave the Shakespeare conspiracy behind entirely. It came out of left field and left me yelling “WHAT?!” at my copy of the book. In the end, it just made me want to watch Shakespeare and read conspiracy theories on Wikipedia, which I did. For what it’s worth, Christopher Plummer in The Tempest is wonderful and I still subscribe to the “Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare” theory. I recommend forgetting about the question of authorship and enjoying a night at your local community’s summer production of a Shakespeare play. Trust me, they are everywhere and they are more enjoyable than The Cottage.
1 out of 5 stars
The Cottage by Alan K. Austin
Paperback: 224 pages
Special thanks to Sandy from Author Solutions for sending me my review copy!