The Nine Lives of Kit Marlowe

Written by Jay Margrave
Review by Janet Williamson

Christopher Marlowe, scholar, playwright, roustabout, and spy for the Queen, is considered a traitor by her spymaster William Cecil. To save him from imprisonment, his friends, led by Thomas Priedeux, stage his death at Mistress Bull’s house in Deptford, by substituting a stranger’s body for his. Under cover of darkness, Priedeux steals Kit away by rowing him downriver to an inn, where Kit conceals his identity by dressing as a woman. Pretending to be brother and sister, they sail to the Netherlands and arrive at the home of Tom’s cousin, Bridget, who immediately sees through the disguise. Kit, now Christabel, is made miserable when Bridget teaches him how to cook, clean, and adopt the feminine mannerisms needed to make his role convincing.

Tom believes that Kit has left his old life far behind as their travels take them across Europe, but Kit has a propensity for absconding from their rooms in the dead of night and leaving death in his wake. His thirst for learning and his curiosity are boundless, and his enthusiasm draws much unwarranted attention, which is the one thing Tom wanted to avoid. At every available opportunity, Christabel writes sonnets and plays, which are heavily coded messages sent to his compatriot, William Shakespeare, in England.

When Christabel completes the quest assigned to him by the ‘magician’ Doctor Dee, he and Tom separate. Older and wiser, Kit returns to London to live out the rest of his nine lives – but for how long?

This is the third and final book involving the adventures of Thomas Priedeux, which is a pity because it is a page turner from start to finish, with its rich descriptions, lively dialogue and meticulous attention to plot details that all fans of Shakespeare will recognise.