Christopher Marlowe's alter ego as a government spy has inspired a variety of alternative explanations to the official account of his death in a tavern brawl. This novel sets out another, ingenious, scenario for the events at Deptford, revealed in the final pages. The problem is however. that up to this point in Scarsbrook's novel, it was difficult to work out just what Marlowe - and for a time, Will Shakespeare - are trying to achieve. We have an improbable excursion to Leasowe, Lord Derby's seat in the Wirral, very far off in travelling terms in those days,that merely establishes the fact that he was seriously ill; a number of clandestine visits to Scadbury, Walsingham's seat, and the royal palace at Nonsuch; and several episodes of violence, some based on fact, but others entirely fictional and extremely unlikely. I was left with the feeling that the book was simply marking time, putting its main characters through a series of 'action scenes' until the denouement at Deptford was reached. Also annoying were the rather too frequent anachronisms - rhodendendrons, cultivated in gardens, nearly two centuries too early; cranberries served as food a few decades before New England Indians introduced them to the Pilgrim Fathers, a 'restaurant' rather than a 'chophouse' - and one howler, bread 'roles' instead of 'rolls'.
If taken as a light-hearted romp, in which action is all, quite entertaining. If taken as a historical novel, it has many shortcomings.