Reviewed by Stephen Cashmore
This is a nicely written story and it’s clear that the author knows what she is writing about. The idea is that in 1593, a famous English playwright, Christopher Marlowe, was found dead in a room at an inn. I didn’t know that, but a simple google search tells me that it was true, and the same search tells me he was stabbed by one Ingram Frizer. But the reasons for the stabbing aren’t known, and this is the vital missing ingredient that Marie Brennan uses in her short story.
In The Deaths of Christopher Marlowe she postulates several different ways in which the stabbing might have occurred, and interposes them with quotes from trial notes, presumably dating from 1593. The writing is clear, the dialogue pretty good and overall it’s a pretty efficient piece of work. But there’s the rub. There is no gainsaying the fact that the story is efficient, well-researched, clever. But does it draw the reader in? It does on an intellectual level, much as a detective story captures the interest of a reader, but it didn’t as a story about those long-dead characters. For that reason, I didn’t find the story completely satisfying. I actually wondered if much of it could have been written from Marlowe’s point of view, rather than as an omniscient storyteller.
That said, it is a competent piece of work, and if you have an historical bent and like to work through puzzles, you’d probably find this would work well for you.