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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Review - A Prisoner in Malta

I have had this book on my TBR list and I finally got to it.  A mystery series based on the enigmatic historical figure of Christopher Marlowe, who, conjecture has it, either influenced Shakespeare or was the actual writer of the plays and The Bard only a convenient cover.  

He has long been rumored to have worked for the great Elizabethan Spy Master Sir Francis Walsingham.  In this book we are given a fictional account of how he might have been recruited to work for the Spy Master.

Author: Phillip DePoy

Copyright: Jan 2016 (Minotaur) 320 pgs

Series: 1st in Christopher Marlowe Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild, some fighting with swords and fight violence etc.

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Intrigue

Main Characters: Christopher Marlowe, real historical figure who was Elizabethan playwright, poet, and spy.

Setting: Modern day, England and Malta

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

"In 1583, the nineteen-year-old Christopher Marlowe---with a reputation as a brawler, a womanizer, a genius, and a social upstart at Cambridge University---is visited by a man representing Marlowe's benefactors. There are rumors of a growing plot against her majesty Queen Elizabeth I, and the Queen's spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, has charged young Marlowe with tracking down the truth. The path to that truth seems to run through an enigmatic prisoner held in complete seclusion in a heavily guarded dungeon in Malta. Marlowe must use every bit of his wits, his skills, and his daring to unravel one of the greatest mysteries in history and help uncover and unravel scheme of assassination and invasion, one involving the government of Spain, high ranking English nobles, and even the Pope himself."

Christopher Marlowe is smart and witty but also flawed with a party boy tendency and inflated ego.  He is depicted brilliantly, not too full of himself and yet comical in his sarcastic dialog.  Dr. Rodrigo Lopez, Queen Elizabeth's private physician, has been Christopher's friend and even mentor, and ultimately brings him to Walsingham to recruit him.  Lopez is a mystery through most of the book as to which cause he is really devoted to.  Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth I’s secretary and “spymaster” is ruthless and shows us what spying was like in ancient times.  Miss Frances Walsingham, the spymaster’s daughter, is a deadly spy in her own right that Chris naturally falls for.  Tin, a stable servant girl who is devoted to Miss Walsingham is a surprise.  The characters of Christopher and Miss Walsingham are over-the-top in a few scenes with their fighting prowess, but if taken in the spirit of a grand swash-buckling story it works.

The Malta scenes are early in the book, but quiet effectively used to set the intrigue.  It was a "seal-team-six meets the Three Musketeers" style for the rescue of the prisoner on Malta. The rest of the book is figuring out a twisty murder mystery that has set up Christopher as the killer and he must clear his name and uncover more of the people involved in the plot against the Queen.  The setting for this part is in and around London, from churches to back alleys.  In this there are many, many suspects and everything was murky.

The plot is complex and unpredictable up to the ending, which depends on what you like as to whether this will appeal to you.  In that light, it was an enjoyable escape.  At times the investigation seemed to be going nowhere and began to drag, but soon picked up.  The climax had an exciting confrontation and twist, with the promise of Christopher continuing in the service of the Queen.  

If you enjoy swashbuckling adventure with a murder mystery, some intrigue, and some humor - then this is probably your kind of book!  I found this book pure escapism and enjoyed it tremendously.

Rating:  Good - A fun read, it had a good grip on me! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list.

For your viewing pleasure, here is a short piece on questions surrounding Christopher's death and if he could be the real author of Shakespeare's works.

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Mystica said...

This sounds interesting. I did not know those tidbits about Marlowe at all.

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