The Scorpion’s Nest

Written by M.J. Trow
Review by Rebecca Henderson Palmer

This novel is the fourth in M.J. Trow’s Kit Marlowe series, which features Kit as a member of Sir Francis Walsingham’s spy network. The author weaves Marlowe’s documented associations with the University of Cambridge and the English College in Rheims (France) into a fictional story where he travels undercover from Cambridge to the English College to flush out a Catholic traitor allegedly connected with the Babington plot to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I. Once in Rheims, Marlowe discovers that several suspicious deaths have taken place on the college grounds in recent weeks. Now Marlowe must find one traitor in the midst of many who would love to see the “heretic queen” dead, while he investigates why young men are losing their lives in “the scorpions’ nest.”

Elizabethan England enthusiasts will recognize many familiar characters besides Marlowe and Walsingham, namely dramatist Robert Greene, cryptologist Thomas Phelippes, and Secretary of State Lord Burghley. The author’s use of historical facts and authentic characters add a valuable dimension to the plot, and history buffs will enjoy the in-depth look at the time period. Following the large number of characters all covered by the third-person point of view can be challenging, however, and many of the historical allusions are easily missed if the reader isn’t thoroughly familiar with the era and cast of characters. The search for the traitor seems to be an afterthought, and the level of detail often weighs down the action, so the book is better suited to fans of the time period than to those looking for a fast-paced suspense story.