Just finished the noir novella “Guarding Shakespeare” by Quintin Peterson, found on Book Club Reading List!
Lt. Norman Blalock has worked at the Folger Library guarding priceless Shakespearean artifacts for 25 years. Shortly after being passed up for promotion yet again, Norman is offered the opportunity of a lifetime: steal a small, virtually unknown artifact in exchange for enough money to retire and live comfortably for the rest of his life. Why should he be loyal to employers who systematically underestimate his abilities? Could he really pull off the heist of a lifetime?
I love the idea for this novella! It’s like Ocean’s 11 meets National Treasure with a dash of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Norman lives a lonely life–estranged from his adult children, single, deceased parents, and has lived with a distrust of others his entire life, making it hard for him to be close with anyone. So when Kavitha, a young, gorgeous British woman, comes around representing her employer and offering Norman incomprehensibly large amounts of money to do a job, I was cautiously hopeful that she might be the solution to his loneliness. I think Guarding Shakespeare does a great job at making the reader care about its characters, particularly Norman. I was very much invested in his outcome, worried he would be double-crossed but hopeful that everything would work out in the end.
“When the truth is too painful, we choose to live a lie. Norman chose to live the lie for now.” (pg 89)
If that quote doesn’t make you want to root for Norman, I don’t know what will!!
A cool thing about this story is the amount of historical trivia it contains. Any history buff will enjoy this book! I’m thinking the author, Quintin Peterson, is either a history enthusiast himself or did tons of research to write this story. Probably both.
I think the biggest weakness for me was the flow and writing style of this novella. While the content was great, descriptions of locations, people, and historical events are described in extremely long run-on sentences. When sentences are too long, my eyes skip ahead and I miss out on information, making me confused and have to back-track to try and catch up. Here is one example of a run-on sentence that was hard to follow, right at the beginning of the story:
“Lt. Blalock, clean-shaven, tall, dark, and trim, wearing a fresh uniform consisting of navy blue slacks riding just right on the tops of spit-shined combat boots, a heavily starched white shirt choked by a navy blue necktie, and a navy blue commando sweater bearing on each sleeve blue, yellow and white circular Folger Shakespeare Library Police shoulder patches embroidered with Shakespeare’s family crest and a shiny gold metal badge and matching name tag on either side of its half-bust circumference, was hiding in the storage/elevator service room on the Gamma Deck of the Folger’s underground complex, evading detection by a fellow officer with a K-9 conducting a random interior security sweep.” (pg 4)
Whew!! What a mouthful! Why not just say Lt. Blalock was hiding from an officer doing a security sweep, then state in separate sentences what he was wearing and how he looked? I think that would be easier for reader comprehension.
Overall, I really enjoyed the idea behind the story and the main characters Norman and Kavitha. I think Norman is very easy to relate to; he has flaws and seems like a normal person, making me emotionally invested in his well-being. I also enjoyed the bits of historical trivia. Unfortunately, the run-on sentences and lengthy descriptions interrupted the flow so much that I had a hard time following the story in places. I wanted more of the dialogue between Norman and Kavitha, more of Norman’s history with his father, more suspenseful action scenes, and less lengthy descriptions of history or what a character is wearing. The core of a really great story is there; with a little editing it could really shine!
[stars color=”aqua” number=”three” width=”220px”]
Book the author on Book Club Reading List
Buy it on Amazon
Add it to your bookshelf on Goodreads