The Bookman's Tale opens in 1995, and introduces us to antiquarian book expert Peter Byerly, who has recently relocated from America to the English countryside after the untimely death of his wife, Amanda. In an antiquarian book shop in Hay on Wye, Peter stumbles across a rare book about forgeries; he is bewildered when a watercolour portrait hidden in the book seems to resemble his dead wife. What then follows is the story of how Peter's search to discover more about the mysterious Victorian watercolour leads him into the bewildering world of William Shakespeare's lost works.
The mystery at the heart of the story is cunningly manipulated and the twists and turns in the plot are cleverly contrived. However, the real attraction is that this is a book for book lovers, as the description of the conservation and love of books as desirable objects of beauty really comes shining through, and makes you realise the aesthetic value of rare literary masterpieces. The narrative switches effortlessly between three time frames; 1995 and Peter's search for the truth, 1985 and his courtship and early marriage to his beloved Amanda, and even further back to the Elizabethan world of William Shakespeare.
Beautifully written from start to finish, this is one of those stories that deserves to do really well. I really enjoyed it.