The Marlowe Conspiracy
Historical novelists would be lost without the dashing, mysterious figure of Christopher Marlowe, and they’d be equally lost if there were video footage of him getting fatally stabbed in a Deptford rooming house on May 30, 1593. The shady background of the men with Marlowe that day (and their summary acquittal by a royal inquest) has been grist for conspiracy mills ever since, and M.G. Scarsbrook, after a great deal of obvious and reassuring research, takes on the whole murky mess of Marlowe’s life and death and afterlife in his packed and rambunctious novel, The Marlowe Conspiracy.
Every major incident from the poet’s life is re-imagined and very effectively dramatized (indeed, Scarsbrook often subtly re-arranges details to enhance the drama) as Marlowe enlists the aid of his friend Shakespeare to clear himself of charges of atheism in the spring of that fatal year. The vast and tangled world of Elizabethan culture and court politics is brought spectacularly alive under Scarsbrook’s handling, and the dialogue crackles with urgency and wit. From the book’s great first line (“The moon looked flat and pale and ready for a kill”), through the machinations of Elizabeth I’s devious and powerful councilors, to an ending that will please most, if not all, conspiracy buffs, this novel never flags for an instant and never disappoints. Highly recommended.