A Fine Madness

Pegasus Crime. Feb. 2022. 256p. ISBN 9781643139111. $25.95. THRILLER
For centuries, it’s been reported that the famed Elizabethan playwright and British spy Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death in a brawl at an inn in South London in May 1593, for unknown reasons. Marlowe’s short life and his excesses have left a mark on history, but details surrounding his mysterious death are scarce, and many theories exist as to exactly what happened. Novelist and biographer Judd (“Charles Thoroughgood” series) deftly takes up the story 30 years after the playwright’s death, introducing Marlowe’s friend Thomas Phelippes, who might know what really happened. The problem is that Phelippes is being held prisoner by King James in the Tower of London. The king is intrigued by the prisoner’s claims and wants to know every detail Phelippes is able to recall. But as the story unfolds, the details unveil the complexities of Marlowe’s proclivities, ranging from political machinations to a hidden gay relationship. But does Phelippes have enough information about Marlowe to really gain his freedom? And what exactly does the king intend to do with the information?
VERDICT Judd delivers a truly intriguing and well-researched premise in this historical mystery.
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