Thursday, April 3, 2014

Review of The Intelligencer, a novel by Leslie Silbert

Christopher Marlowe, the playwright and spy for Her Majesty, was betrayed and murdered on May 30, 1597.  The story of Marlowe’s last month is told in parallel with a present-day tale of theft of Marlowe’s spy reports that leads to murder, betrayal, theft and deception in the delightful book The Intelligencer. 

This fast-moving thriller is the first novel by a woman whose background includes Renaissance scholar, private investigator and Harvard graduate.  I enjoyed the novel from the first page.  Silbert weaves the two stories together well, both in the way she moves from the present to the past and back and in bring the two tales together in the conclusion. 
While I enjoyed the whole book, the most memorable and vivid parts of the novel for me were the parts in Elizabethan England.  Silbert made me see and feel the vivid emotions of a world where death is always close at hand, and stench overwhelmed the senses. 

The modern scenes were intriguing, but less vivid.  One exception was the robbery gone wrong that is a bright thread that leads from the beginning to the end of the book.  While the robbery is set in the modern day, the robber is a baron gone bad with sensibilities that at least go back to Victoria if not all the way to Elizabeth. 

When I met the author on a train from Washington last month, she had three mystery novels she had just bought in Union Station.  She said she was doing competitive research.  I hope she writes another novel set partially or completely in Renaissance Europe.  I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a thriller, but particularly to readers who want a tale well told from a world lit by fire.

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