🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
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…
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.
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.