A fun mystery tale about a young girl, Hero, whose family moves into a house that local legend says has a missing diamond hidden in it somewhere. Hero decides to try to find the diamond for her neighbor, old Mrs. Roth, who befriends her and tells her the story of the missing diamond which seems to be part of a necklace that she was given by the former owner of the house, whose wife was a descendant of Edward de Vere, thought by many scholars to be the true author of Shakespeare's plays. They discover that the necklace may have been Anne Boleyn's, and woven into the story is the genuine history and scholarly speculation about the relationship between Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I and Edward de Vere. A fun story but one that I would have enjoyed more in my youth as I was a little disappointed at the trailing plot thread that went nowhere and seemed contrived for the sake of drama and the obvious twist in the end that I could see coming a mile away.
** spoiler alert ** I was very 'into' this book ... I kept wanting to read the next chapter, which suggests to me that it was certainly well written. I'm not always an easy mark.
Hero, the lead character's name, struck me as a very normal, intelligent, young girl -- self-obsessed with her own little misery at being the new kid and with an odd name, but young enough to take advice from parents and teachers. Danny, the older, cool boy who seems to take a liking to Hero, also comes across as quite real. A bit of an enigma, he's popular but doesn't try to be. He's got some troubles, which he shares with Hero, but not with his posse of friends. Those troubles (an absent mom and a police chief father who tends to give him too much leeway) strike the reader as very real.
The mystery in the book, the search for a hidden object and what that object might imply, becomes a little heavy-handed. Hero and Danny find the object almost without difficulty, despite the police searching the place from top to bottom on more than one occassion. How convenient.
One thing that I didn't like ...
**WARNING >>> SPOILER ALERT >>>**
...was the author's suggesting, rather strongly, that William Shakespeare didn't write the plays attributed to him, but rather another historical figure of the era.
I know this is a popular theme, and many scholarly books have been written about this, but it annoys me more than a little bit that we plant this suggestion in the minds of our youth, whom we still want to have read Shakespeare.
As to the Shakespeare controversy itself, I've never held to the theory that the man couldn't have written those plays because he was so poorly educated and came from such a poor background. That theory doesn't sit well with me. Genius can come about in many forms and out of nowhere. If Albert Einstein hadn't lived in an era when things were so well documented, we might certainly believe that he couldn't possibly have come up with the brilliant theories that he did. He was a poor immigrant who failed at math in his elementary school years. How could he possibly have such brilliant theories later in life? So too with Shakespeare.
Fortunately, the author does write a note at the end of the book about the Shakespeare theories, which is nice, but when the author asks, directly "What do I think?" she cops out and answers to both, one as historian and one as novelist.
I say let's take the Shakespeare 'reality theories' out of the elementary and middle schools and focus on the writing by that author known as Shakespeare.
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 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, or just much ado about nothing? Hero, being Hero, is determined to figure it out.
Moving to a new town and going to a new school is a nerve-wracking, exciting experience. It's even harder when you have a very unique name, one derived from the Shakespearian play, Much Ado About Nothing. Hero is just your normal twelve year old girl trying to find her place in her new home and school.
Her first day of school doesn't go well, except befriending a first grader. The kids don't seem to like her because of her unique name, which they make fun of. She really seems to be struggling to fit in.
Then one day her mom asks her to return a gardening trowel to their elderly neighbor. Hero becomes friends with Marion, and learns about the surrounding mystery of her new house. Hero becomes interested in the mystery, and begins researching about the history of the missing diamond of a very old pendant with her new friend, the popular son of the police chief, Danny. Soon, the three of them, Hero, Danny, and Mrs. Roth, are meeting after school every day sharing what new developments they have made in the mystery.
As their friendship deepens, they come closer to solving this mysterious case and finding the rumored lost Murphy Diamond. I truly enjoyed this story. The historical references, the highly developed characters, and the intriguing plot make this a page-turning satisfying read.