The Quality of Mercy

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The historical facts are easily established. Roderigo Lopez, physician to Queen Elizabeth I, was arrested in January, 1594, accused of plotting to poison Elizabeth and of being implicated in a scheme to destroy the English navy. This self-same Dr. Lopez is believed to be the prototype for Shylock in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE--thus the title of this work--for he was in fact a Jew. At the same time, Lopez had several daughters, and Shakespeare wrote several sonnets to an unknown “dark lady.” From these disparate facts, Faye Kellerman has created an energetic and realistic tale of Elizabethan England.

Actually, THE QUALITY OF MERCY is two separate stories which are interwoven in a most satisfactory and interesting manner. Thus, the reader is plunged into a carelessly brutal and savage era in which religious convictions, no matter how sincere, can lead to a decidedly unpleasant death. In this time of peril and intrigue Rebecca Lopez struggles with all her might to assist her family in their self-appointed crusade to rescue their fellow Jews from the clutches of the Spanish Inquisition. Meanwhile, William Shakespeare, journeyman actor and promising playwright, is obsessed with discovering the identity of the murderer of his friend and mentor, Harry Whitman.

In the natural course of literary invention Rebecca and William come together, fall in love, and undertake a series of adventures which not only serve to deepen their love but place them in deadly peril. Still, “all’s well that ends well,” and THE QUALITY OF MERCY concludes on a logical if somewhat tragic note. This work is a bit of a departure for Kellerman, who, like her husband Jonathan, normally composes contemporary detective novels, but the material does not suffer as a result. Indeed, THE QUALITY OF MERCY demonstrates Kellerman’s talent and versatility in a thoroughly convincing manner.