The English Agent (Christopher Marlowe)
by Phillip DePoy
Cover Artist: Painting: Queen Elizabeth (The Ditchley Portrait) by Marcus Gheeraerts
the Younger / Bridgeman Images:
Still life of skull by Amy Weiss / Trevillion Images;
Photograph of antique book by Brocreative / Shutterstock.
Review by Mel Jacob
Minotaur Books Hardcover / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250058430
Date: 21 February 2017 List Price $26.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
In Phillip DePoy’s second novel The English Agent (featuring Christopher Marlowe, Elizabethan poet, playwright, and secret agent)Marlowe is assigned by Lord Walsingham to ensure the safety of William the Silent, an ally to Queen Elizabeth, while in the Netherlands. Marlowe has no inkling what tragedy and loss the assignment will carry.
The mission, beginning with a spurious message and an attack at the tavern meeting place, follows Walsingham's bastard daughter, Lenora Beck, and Marlowe as they set out for the Netherlands. Someone knew of their quest and tries to stop them, but they overcome all obstacles and arrive in the Netherlands too late to save William. Marlowe suspects more trouble is coming and that it will threaten the English throne.
Eventually after a series of missteps, Marlowe is sent to convince Mary, Queen of Scots, that he carries a message from those friendly to her. He must tread carefully to avoid detection as an agent for Walsingham. He completes his mission and intercepts incriminating messages from Mary to her allies. However, Marlowe is still faced with a possible assassination plot against Elizabeth that may involve someone close to her.
Much of the story hinges on the facades various characters present as public personas versus where their real sympathies lies. As much a thriller as a mystery, The English Agent presents young Marlowe as a dashing hero who defends his friends and slays his enemies even if they are former friends and talented poets.
Playwrights, actors, and Travelers (gypsies) add color and interest as DePoy foreshadows Shakespeare's works. The author provides an appendix of the real people featured in the novel and their histories. Those who like Elizabethan mystery will enjoy the journey despite the liberties DePoy takes, but some may not appreciate his version of the people and events. His first novel in the Christopher Marlowe Mystery Series was A Prisoner in Malta.