Black Death (A Tudor mystery featuring Christopher Marlowe)

Written by M.J. Trow
Review by Franca Pelaccia

It’s 1592 in London, and playwright/sleuth Christopher Marlowe receives a letter from archenemy Robert Greene shortly after his death to investigate it as a homicide. Unable to resist the unusual request, Marlowe investigates as the plague stalks London, theatres are shut down for fear of the plague spreading, and magi abound with false but pricey hopes for salvation. Adding to the mystery is the disappearance of Kit’s friend, stage manager Tom Sledd, and further random murders that Marlowe believes are related but can’t figure out how.

Black Death has a complex plot with a large cast of real people from the day (William Shaxsper and Sir Robert Cecil, to name two) and an even larger cast of fictitious characters. These characters are well drawn out, but getting everyone and their roles straight was problematic. The author, however, successfully manages to balance the bleak realities of Elizabethan London with dry wit and insight. Most of the time I wondered where the plot was heading, the best sign for a mystery, which completely surprised me at the end with its ingenuity. Marlowe is fearless, and undaunted in his dealings and conflicts with the accepted way of thinking and the personages of the times. He is also down-to-earth in his dealings with everyday people and their issues.

Black Death will appeal to readers who enjoy a lot of history and actual personages rolled into a solid mystery.