Michelle Butler Hallett Goose Lane, 438 pages, $32.95
The age-old mystery surrounding the murder of playwright Christopher Marlowe, who could have been Shakespeare but wasn’t, inspired Michelle Butler Hallett to write This Marlowe, set in1593 as the reign of Queen Elizabeth was coming to a close and spymasters Sir Robert Cecil and the Earl of Essex were conspiring to control who succeeded her. Enter Christopher Marlowe, a talented poet and playwright who must find other work once the plague closes down theatres. He has no choice but to return to his previous life, one of espionage and intelligence. And, soon, he is losing control, losing hope, at risk of losing everything and everyone he loves. Butler Hallett’s prose is at once canny and tender. This is a novel set deep in history, but the themes, particularly about the ability of power to corrupt, resonate today. This is also a story about art and freedom and all the sides of love: the dark and the light, the redemptive and the ruinous. Perfectly paced and gracefully wrought,
This Marlowe is superior historical fare.