Elizabethan theater, intrigue, dark arts, and the man of many talents who takes on all three.
When Sir Francis Walsingham, the Queen’s Spymaster, suffers a stroke, his death is hardly unexpected. But his right-hand man, Nicholas Faunt, is suspicious enough to call upon Christopher “Kit” Marlowe, cobbler’s son, ex-choirboy, Master of Arts from Cambridge University, poet, playwright, and “projectioner” for her majesty. Faunt brings Kit a goblet of evidence, the lees of the last wine Walsingham drank, and asks him to examine it. Kit worked for Walsingham, too, and he knows just the man to help him determine whether the wine was poisoned: Dr. John Dee, the queen’s magus. Dee belongs to a secret society, the School of Night, every member of which had the means and motive to kill Walsingham. In company with Dee’s borrowed manservant, Kit visits the others one by one, including Henry Percy, the wizard Earl of Northumberland, at whose Sussex estate someone aims a crossbow at Kit, and Sir Walter Ralegh, whom Kit interrupts at a compromising moment and has to duel as a matter of honor. In between sword fighting and arrow dodging, Kit follows the success of his latest play at the Rose Theatre and Bear Pit, to the envy of the less talented, line-stealing William Shaxsper, relying on his gifts as darling of the Muses and his cunning as a servant of the queen to set a scene and play a diabolical role in exposing the true killer.
Fans of Trow’s charismatic playwright hero (Secret World, 2015, etc.) will welcome deeper insight into his complex character in this bawdy, witty, and mostly historically informed eighth adventure.