Traitor’s Storm (Kit Marlowe 6) by MJ Trow

traitor's stormSecrets and spies…

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

While the Spanish Armada is gathering together in preparation of invading England, one of Walsingham’s spies goes missing on the Isle of Wight. So Christopher Marlowe, playwright and spy, is despatched to the island to investigate the disappearance and the rumour that there may be a traitor on the island. But not long after he arrives, a body is found – not the body of the missing spy, but of Matthew Compton, a lawyer who had been run off the island a few days earlier by the Governor Sir George Carey. Was this simply because Sir George hates lawyers, or did he know that Matthew had been having an affair with his wife, Lady Bet? Matt wasn’t the only one to be granted access to Lady Bet’s favours though, and as the bodies begin to mount up, Bet asks Kit to investigate…

Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight, by JMW Turner
Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight, by JMW Turner

Another in the Kit Marlowe series, this is a light-hearted historical crime story. Trow does a very good job of mixing fact with fiction and of creating a credible society for Marlowe to operate in. There’s lots of humour in the book and although the body count is pretty high there’s nothing gruesome about it – the violence all takes place off-stage. The characters all talk in modern English, including modern buzzwords and phrases from time to time. This takes a bit of getting used to, but it does work in the end – it’s probably as realistic as any attempt to mix in Elizabethan language would be. The ‘did Marlowe write Shakespeare’ debate is a running gag throughout, with Marlowe frequently saying things that are recognisably quotes that will later appear in Shakespeare’s work, while Master Shaxsper himself is still struggling to move from the role of mediocre actor to playwright.

The dark around him became peopled with all manner of apparitions and he turned them over in his mind, discarding them when the image was too bizarre. The three witches outlined briefly on the hilltop he dismissed at once as being so far-fetched that not even a Rose audience at their most ale-soaked would swallow them.

MJ Trow
MJ Trow

The characterisation is good, with Marlowe himself being a likeable protagonist. There is a touch of caricature to some of the more eccentric characters but that’s intentional and works with the humorous tone of the book. Where this one falls down a little for me is in its complexity – there’s too much going on and the mystery gets a bit swamped amongst the preparations for war and the spy story. Now and again we are taken to where the Spanish are getting the fleet ready and these sections really seemed somewhat extraneous – they complicated the thing without really adding anything much. I felt if the plot had been more streamlined it would actually have worked better.

But overall this was an enjoyable romp with a good mystery and an interesting setting, which I’m sure would entertain anyone who enjoys light historical crime. Recommended, and I’ll certainly be watching out for the next in the series.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Severn House.

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44 thoughts on “Traitor’s Storm (Kit Marlowe 6) by MJ Trow

  1. FictionFan – It takes skill to mix historical fact with fiction that way, particularly when some of the main characters are actual historical figures. I’m glad it worked for you. And when it’s done well, some wit – especially wit that respects the reader – can be really welcome.

    • These are very enjoyable, Margot. As always, research pays off – he clearly knows the period well so can play about with the language and characters while still keeping them believable.

  2. Stellar review! I love historical fiction, I think. I’ve never tried a mystery one, though. Of course the humor draws me as well.

    Just look at that castle! Now that’d be a pleasure to take a tour of. “The Child” seems like it would be spooky.

    • Woohoo! Another stellar! Most kind! These are good fun – I love all the Shakespeare and theatre jokes in them.

      The castle looks great, doesn’t it? One I’ve never visited. But then we have so many… *boastful look*. The Child is incredibly spooky!! The first couple of chapters were pretty good, standard crime stuff, and then suddenly in Chapter 3, it became hair-raisingly terrifying – I may have to resurrect the fretful porpentine if it keeps up this standard all the way through…

      • I should read more Shakespeare. Don’t think of it! I should have read more in my youth, I mean.

        You’ve visited castles???? *shocked face* I’m so…jealous! Yes! That’s what I was thinking. I’d love to hear a review. I looked it up and it seems like a good one!

        • Ah, I suspect the Professor is like FF – eternally young! So plenty of time for all those plays…and sonnets. We should do a deal… *winks wickedly*

          You may want to hold onto your top hat but…I’ve stayed in a castle! Briefly. And I’ve also toured your castle before – it’s why I picked it. But honestly, you can hardly move over here without bumping into castles or the ruins of them – even Kirkintilloch had one once. Not to mention our Roman wall…

          • You should not suspect that at all! I’m older than you…by…60 years or more. A deal…let me hear it!

            You have not!!! What?! That’s amazing! You’ve actually stayed in a castle! That’s so coolio! My castle is actually real? You’ve toured it? Goodness… I’m like so totally jealous! Roman wall… *gulps* Hey, FEF, when can I come for a visit?

            • More! Much, much more!! Hmm – how about…you watch Kenneth Branagh’s version of Shakey’s Henry V and I’ll – *gulps* – watch the strangely-haired Princess Leia in Star Wars…

              Yep! *smug face* It was a tiny castle now turned into a hotel way up north. But your castle is great – they’ve restored it to how it would have been in its glory days – it’s called Eilean Donan (don’t ask me how to pronounce it – I don’t know!). Not just any old castle for my Professor, you know – one of the best! The Roman Wall however may not be quite as exciting as I may have implied…there’s only really remains left. But the Romans had to build it to stop the Scots (Picts, I think, or maybe Celts) from raiding them. You see, the Romans conquered England, but never managed to conquer Scotland… *chuckles gleefully and waves her claymore in the air*

            • Hmm…no! You’d have to watch John Carter. Unless you really want to see Star Wars. *gag*

              Wow…you should have taken pics of the castle! That’s so beautiful! But I fear there are impostors there. We’ll have to drive them out. That is one of the best of seen! It’s…splendid! Yes, I hear the Celts were rather cool fighters. But the Romans could have! If they brought the might of their legions! And turtles.

            • Well, that would work for me because I have a sneaking desire to watch it anyway! I thought you liked Star Wars? You seem to know them awfully well…

              I’m sure I’ve probably got pics somewhere…but pre-digital. And life’s too short to scan! Yes! But I reckon you, me and Tuppence will scare them off easily…and if not, we’ll call on BUS… *awed face*. I’m a Celt! *proud face* No they couldn’t! That’s a malicious rumour put about by the Romans…or the English!

            • That’s good! I have seen all 6. The professor likes the three new ones best. They can be really comical. John Carter is better!

              *laughs* BUS…she could do it! Maybe we should just send her first, before we go. You’re a Celt? *very impressed* But you don’t have a claymore…

            • Just ordered John Carter… *gulps*

              Good plan! You tell her! *hides behind Professor* Don’t need one – I have a Glaswegian accent…

            • *laughing* Nice! You’ll love it. It’s really good–mostly. Rip it if you must! (You could even review it!)

              Oh, BUS? We need you… Hope she hears. Are the accents scary?

            • Hmm…I’m rubbish at reviewing films but…I might…

              She’s in a strange mood at the moment caused by the fact that WordPress keeps calling her Anonymous! *chuckles cruelly* Terrifying!

            • *laughs* I love how you and Lucy always say “rubbish”. I must adopt it. It’d be fun to say the professor is rubbish at all sorts of different things.

              *laughing lots* Oh, I hope she doesn’t get too stressed by it. WordPress tries to kill everyone at some time or another. I have a terrifying accent, then, too!

            • Ah, but the Professor isn’t rubbish at anything! Except maybe choosing hats…

              I suspect they’ll have met their match in BUS! *scared face* Aha! So at last you admit you have an accent…

            • Yeah…that’s probably true. I don’t take much time with that sort of thing.

              Oh yes. BUS would be a warrior if she was a he. No! I was just…just comparing things! It really does shock me that you believe in an American accent…

  3. I enjoyed the previous one in the series. As you say, it took me aback initially to have such modern idiom in the mouths of the Elizabethan protagonists, but it’s a fun, light-hearted, slangy sort of book, very firmly tongue in cheek, I believe.

    • Marginally I preferred the last one but I think that’s because I enjoyed the theatre setting of it more, and Master Shaxsper had a bigger role. But I think it’s because he’s done the research that he manages to keep the background believable while being able to bring in a lot of humour – good fun!

  4. I like historical fiction. It’s what made me dig and delve into non-fiction history. Not school textbooks, but real history. I would imagine that a lot of research was involved in the writing of this book. It sounds read-worthy.

    • I do too, so long as the history sounds pretty much right, and I think it does in these books. I always feel he knows the period well. Definitely enjoyable reads – nice and light but with a good plot.

    • There’s lot’s of them and he always manages to make them funny – and poor Master Shaxsper himself is portrayed as a kind of hick just up from the country – no match for the sophisticated Marlowe!

      Yes, I’m no expert but the history always feels right to me and he does it well enough that I’m never totally sure which characters are real and which fictional – I suspect he’s done his research really thoroughly and then allowed it to just settle naturally in the background.

  5. This one does sound interesting. I like some historical fiction, but it is the added mystery which intrigues me the most.

    I often feel as though I simply don’t read enough. I could never get to all these books! I’m still mired in A Song of Ice and Fire! :/

    • Yes, I like my historical fiction to have a mystery element too or else it ends up feeling too much like reading a history book. I’m the other way – I really think I spend far too much time reading when I should be doing something more exciting. Perhaps I should take up bungee-jumping… 😉

  6. I love historical fiction, but it has to be really good like Ken Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth”. I must admit though, I am partial to any story featuring Christopher Marlowe.

    • These don’t have anything like the depth of “Pillars of the Earth”, but they’re good for what they are – fairly light fun. Marlowe’s a great character in these – very smooth and good fun – kinda like an Elizabethan James Bond…

  7. I haven’t read any of these, but I have read and enjoyed some of his Lestrade ( yes, THAT Lestrade!) stories. Looks like I’ll have to add these to the list (sigh!).

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