by Dorothea Dickerman: Elizabeth Winkler rewards and entertains readers in several genres with her debut, Shakespeare Was a Woman and Other Heresies: How Doubting the Bard Became the Biggest Taboo in History (Simon & Schuster, 2023).

For historians and general Shakespeare enthusiasts, Winkler’s solid, citation-rich research draws aside the curtain to reveal how concepts about the Bard and the works have evolved over 400 years.

For detective and mystery lovers craving an entertaining whodunit, Winkler serves up pace, place, juicy three-dimensional characters, a racing story line and a bang-up finish, yet invites readers to assemble the clues and solve the biggest literary mystery of all time themselves.

For readers curious about the authorship controversy and those nagged by the sense that something about the man from Stratford-upon-Avon doesn’t add up, Winkler, a trusted Wall Street Journal journalist, takes her notebook and investigative skills on the road in the US and Great Britain and delivers a succinct analysis of the issues.

For those who have received an insult or brush-off for daring to ask established, ivory tower “authorities” the simple question “But why?” on any topic, Winkler’s book is the satisfying revenge play you have been waiting for. Watching over the shoulder of this younger, female journalist as she engages hand-to-hand with ossified experts who do not know or cannot explain half the historical facts and period literary references she effortlessly drops onto the page feels indescribably good.

For those concerned with the dwindling role of the humanities in academia, Winkler revitalizes the arguments for open intellectual discourse and champions the inter-disciplinary exchange of ideas. Making Winkler’s book assigned reading could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship for university English departments.

Even readers who lack interest in Shakespeare, find Shakespeare’s language inaccessible, or shrug “Why does it matter who wrote the plays?” may find Winkler’s readable, witty tour de force an irresistible invitation to participate in the growing conversation about the works and their author.