A “vivid portrait of the beautiful, passionate, ever-witty Marlowe . . . A phantasmagoric Elizabethan thriller” from the author of The Cutting Room (Los Angeles Times).
1593 and London is a city on edge. Under threat from plague and war, it’s a desperate place where strangers are unwelcome and severed heads grin from spikes on Tower Bridge.
Playwright, poet, spy and man of prodigious appetites, Christopher Marlowe is working on his latest literary effort and enjoying the English countryside at his patron’s estate when this idyll is cut short. A messenger from the Queen and the nefarious Privy Council summons his immediate return to London. And in the following three days Marlowe confronts dangerous government factions, double agents, necromancy, betrayal and revenge in his search for the murderous Tamburlaine, a killer who has escaped from between the pages of Marlowe’s most violent play and is scandalizing London. The author must confront his creation—or die.
Tamburlaine Must Die is the suspenseful adventure story of a man who dares to defy both God and his Queen—and discovers that there are worse fates than damnation.
“As quick and dark as a child’s nightmare . . . Fictionalizes Marlowe’s last days with novelistic wit and interpretive imagination.”—The Nation
“If Raymond Chandler had written an Elizabethan thriller, it might have looked like this.”—Providence Journal
“The Bard would have loved this period romp.”—The San Diego Union-Tribune
“Tightly written, well plotted and, best of all, fun.”—Detroit Free Press
Christopher Marlowe, "playwright, scenester, and celebrated wit," was a superstar in Elizabethan London. Unfortunately for him, Elizabethan London was a risky place to attract notice. In Welsh's slim, taut follow-up to her 2003 debut, The Cutting Room, she reimagines the bitter end of the great dramatist's life, retold in his own words on the eve of his still-unsolved murder. The beginning of the end comes in the form of a messenger from the queen's Privy Council, summoning him back to the city from a comfortable ensconcement at his patron's country house. Turns out that heretical verses signed by Tamburlaine, his most famous (and famously ruthless) creation, have been turning up all over plague-decimated London in his absence. Faced with charges of heresy and blasphemy, Marlowe has an unspecified, "but clearly short," window of opportunity to offer up a more appealing scapegoat in his place. Welsh doesn't waste a word on any of the florid romanticizing so common in historical fiction: no heaving, corseted breasts or speeding steeds here. Just a hard, sharp little rapier of a thriller/mystery that packs a punishing schedule of sex, violence, wheeling and double-dealing into its brief length. The tension is unabated throughout this frantic, 72-hour dash among backstabbers, spies, murderers and prostitutes even as Marlowe realizes that not even he will be able to talk his way out of this one.