In 1593 the brilliant and controversial young playwright Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death in a Deptford lodging-house. The circumstances were shady, the official account - a violent quarrel over the bill, or "recknynge" - long regarded as dubious. The Reckoning is the first full-length investigation of the killing, tracing Marlowe's shadowy political dealings, his involvement in covert intelligence work, and the charges of heresy and homosexuality against him. There is critical new evidence about his three companions on that last day in Deptford and about the sinister role of the informer, Richard Baines. More important, The Reckoning is an enthralling revelation of the extraordinary underworld of Elizabethan crime and espionage, a "secret theater" in which nearly every historical figure familiar to us, from hack poet to Queen's high minister, seems to have played a part. Here, in a tour de force of precise scholarship and dazzling ingenuity, Charles Nicholl penetrates four centuries of obscurity to reveal not only a complex and unsettling story of entrapment and betrayal, chimerical plot and sordid felonies, but also a fascinating vision of the underside of an entire culture.