Inevitably, Kells’ book is about the Shakespeare authorship controversy. This is well-covered ground, naturally, and Kells addresses some of it in this new book, focusing in particular on Elizabethan courtier and diplomat Henry Neville as a likely alternate candidate. Kells gamely investigates the case for and against Neville and a handful of other possible authors of the Shakespeare canon. The main body of the book is every bit as invigorating as The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders ... The subtitle of Kells’ book is Unlocking the Greatest Mystery in Literature. The book itself is wonderful reading, but that mystery remains firmly locked away.
... unquestionably a lively, even sprightly book, nearly as entertaining as S. Schoenbaum’s capacious Shakespeare’s Lives, to which it is a kind of pendant ... In the end, Kells decides that the genius of Shakespeare — whoever he was — lay in his flair for 'appropriation, revision and synthesis.' Of course, he also had something of a way with words.
Kells's account of the search for Shakespeare's library leads through many fascinating bypaths of book history ... While no one has yet found Shakespeare's library, Kells hopes new leads may yet surface. The work takes an unfortunate detour into the Cloud Cuckoo Land of the authorship question, claiming Ben Jonson and John Florio greatly improved Shakespeare's mediocre plays ... Still, an enjoyable excursion into Shakespearean (and non-Shakespearean) booklore.