First Sentence: The linen stretched over the tenter-grounds like winding sheets, ghostly pale under the Norton Folgate Moon.
Sir Francis Walsingham, spymaster to Queen Elizabeth, is dead. It is believed by Nicholas Faunt, Walsingham’s right-hand man, that he was poisoned and impeaches playwright and former spymaster Christopher Marlow to uncover the killer. In order to so do, Marlow seeks the help of leading scientists and thinkers, many of whom are members of the so-called School of the Night.
Trow truly captures the feel and meter of the period but not so much that it is incomprehensible. In fact, the often writing gives the sense of listening to music.
It is not uncommon for historical mysteries to focus on Kit Marlow as a spymaster. Here, one can appreciate seeing Marlow the playwright--Marlow had the rare skill of being able to walk and read at the same time. His boots rang out on the cobbles as he strode, one hand holding the book, the other flinging out to the side placing players and poetry in the air around him.”--and getting a behind-the-scenes look at the state preparation. The references to “Will Shaxper,” of whom the character of Marlow is quite dismissive while constantly quoting lines now attributed to the Bard, and the fascinating Dr. Dee are enjoyable.
In fact, Trow truly makes all his characters come to life—“The choirboy in Marlow was never far from the surface, thought he would die rather than admit it and he hummed under his breath the soaring Tallis of his youth.” There are many characters from history brought to life, but it can also be confusing as many of them are referred to by several different names each. But stick with it; it is definitely worth it.
Trow’s subtle humor is such a pleasurable aspect of his voice—“It was quite incredible that when you put a perfectly normal, intelligent person on a stage and ask him to walk its length, he suddenly had the gait of an ostrich with ague.” It comes through in even the most ordinary scene—“Carter was trying to look inconspicuous, to give him credit where it was due, but sitting on one horse and leading another, it was tricky to say the least.”
One cannot help but be amused by the numerous references about Shakespeare being determined to write a play about Henry the Sixth. Shakespeare did, in fact, write a trilogy of plays on Henry VI, and they are now credited as having been co-authored by Marlow.
“Eleventh Hour” may not be for everyone, but it is delightful for those who love the period and the works of Marlow and Shakespeare. There is a very clever exposure of the killer wherein “the play’s the thing.”
ELEVENTH HOUR: A Tutor Mystery (Hist. Mys-Kit Marlow-England-1590) - VG
Trow, M.J. – 8th in series
Crème de la Crime – First World Publication Edition – July 2017