Does this plot sound familiar?
Part of the fun of this book is seeing how the author takes the events of the play and places them believably in a 21st century teenaged context. And he's pretty successful. He doesn't do a blow-by-blow re-enactment, but selects choice scenes and re-imagines them. The body count is way down here, as it must be, so all ends happily for several characters. The Rosencrantz and Guildenstern characters are the only ones that seemed off to me -- they are redneck buffoons named Roscoe and Gilbert, but Gratz retains the humorous interchangeability conceit of Shakespeare's. Otherwise, the main drivers of the story are all there: Claudius/Claude, Gertrude/Trudy, Ophelia/Olivia, Polonius/Paul, Laertes/Larry, Fortinbras/Ford N. Branf (this last one made me laugh).
Evidently, the author and his publisher liked how this one turned out, because he's got two more Horatio Wilkes mysteries on tap -- using Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream. I think these books are more for high school readers, so maybe they think that English teachers can enhance their Shakespeare units with them. I do believe that you need a more than passing familiarity with the plot in order to fully enjoy Something Rotten, otherwise it's just a detective novel -- and a fairly ordinary one at that.
Where the book failed for me was in its audio interpretation. So -- more precisely -- the reader, Erik Davies, failed to deliver the book as the lighthearted, clever pastiche that it was. He took the Philip Marlowe-ish hardboiled detective character and read it straight -- I did not hear Horatio's teenaged take on this genre's conventions at all. Mostly, I think the reader sounded too old, but Horatio's smart-alecky take on everything had no humor. He also wasn't particularly skilled at delineating characters (beyond the good ol' boys, R & G, and the soft-voiced Olivia), so following dialogue could be particularly tricky.
I'm trying to think of another narrator who could have made this more interesting: Jeff Woodman? Or the guy who reads The Last Apprentice, Christopher Evan Welch. I'd like to hear him read something else. (And if HarperAudio would send us InterWorld -- how many times do I have to ask? -- we could!)