Sunday, May 30, 2010
Tamburlaine Must Die by Louise Welsh
This taut little mystery revolves around my favourite Elizabethan bad boy--Christopher Marlowe, the brilliant poet and playwright who not only flirted with danger but took it to bed, leading a secret life as a spy,a bisexual by nature and inclination, dabbling in homosexuality and atheism at a time when both were considered crimes as well as sins and could lead to a fiery death at the stake.
When the novel begins, Marlowe is comfortably ensconced at his patron's country estate, hard at work on his poetry, enjoying fine food, luxurious accommodations, the beauties of nature, and tolerating Walsingham's caresses while avoiding the plague in London when a summons from the Privy Council shatters his peaceful interlude.
A firebrand signing himself Tamburlaine, after the savage Scythian shepherd-kIng in Marlowe's most violent play, has been making dangerous mischief in London, and Marlowe finds himself under suspicion.
Marlowe has three days to clear his name and save his life. Three days in which he will face betrayal by friends and lovers, confront double agents, and even consult the mysterious but learned and respected alchemist Dr. John Dee.
In this brief novella, Ms. Welsh does a fine job of capturing the eloquence of Elizabethan language without making it ponderous for the modern day reader or bogging them down with archaic language and unfamiliar words, with a judicious touch--not to little or too much-- of crudity and slang to authentically capture the world of Christopher Marlowe and the din, colour, and chaos of late sixteenth century London.