The Intelligencer

The Intelligencer

3.9 24
by Leslie Silbert

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On May 30, 1593, London's most popular playwright was stabbed to death. The royal coroner ruled that Christopher Marlowe was killed in self-defense, but historians have long suspected otherwise, given his role as an "intelligencer" in the queen's secret service.

In sixteenth-century London, Marlowe embarks on his final intelligence assignment, hoping to find his

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On May 30, 1593, London's most popular playwright was stabbed to death. The royal coroner ruled that Christopher Marlowe was killed in self-defense, but historians have long suspected otherwise, given his role as an "intelligencer" in the queen's secret service.

In sixteenth-century London, Marlowe embarks on his final intelligence assignment, hoping to find his missing muse, as well as the culprits behind a high-stakes smuggling scheme.

In present-day New York, grad student turned private eye Kate Morgan is called in on an urgent matter. One of her firm's top clients, a London-based financier, has chanced upon a mysterious manuscript that had been buried for centuries - one that someone, somewhere is desperate to steal. What secret lurks in those yellowed, ciphered pages? And how, so many years later, could it drive someone to kill?" As Kate sets off for England, she receives a second assignment. An enigmatic art dealer has made an eleven-million-dollar purchase from an Iranian intelligence officer. Is it a black-market antiquities deal, or something far more sinister? Like Marlowe, Kate moonlights as a spy - her P.I. firm doubles as an off-the-books U.S. Intelligence unit - and she is soon caught like a pawn in a deadly international game. As the Intelligencer's interlocking narratives race toward a stunning collision, and Kate closes in on the truth behind Marlowe's sudden death, it becomes clear that she may have sealed a similar fate for herself.

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Editorial Reviews

Jack Devine
An artful and ingenious blend of Elizabethan history and 21st century espionage by a gifted and insightful observer of the age-old dark side of intelligence.
former Acting Deputy Director of Operations for the Central Intelligence Agency
Mark T. Sullivan
The Intelligencer is an impressive and fascinating debut spy thriller, interweaving the secret espionage life of the 16th century playwright Christopher Marlowe with that of present-day Kate Morgan, a private investigator with a penchant for international intrigue. With a blistering pace, well-drawn characters and an intricate plot, it will keep you guessing until the very end. Leslie Silbert is a writer to watch.
author of The Serpent's Kiss
Gayle Lynds
From London to New York, from Elizabethan times to our new millennium, The Intelligencer by Leslie Silbert bursts onto the literary scene with an unforgettable tale of espionage and high-level politics played across time and continents. A vigorous and daring writer and thinker, Silbert is an exciting addition to the growing ranks of female thriller authors. Make sure your electric bill is paid. You'll be up all night reading!
Masquerade, Mesmerized
David Liss
It is rare to find a novel that is both impressively learned and absorbingly entertaining. Leslie Silbert does a remarkable job of presenting fascinating details from the world of espionage - both Tudor and contemporary - and weaving them into a fast-paced, engaging and witty thriller.
author of A Conspiracy of Paper and The Coffee Trader
Publishers Weekly
Silbert brings hands-on experience as a private eye to her entertaining debut thriller, which shifts deftly between the present and the late 16th century. In 1593 Christopher Marlowe, temporarily bereft of his artistic muse, takes on his final espionage assignment for the nascent intelligence agencies of the time-a smuggling case that may involve high-level individuals. In contemporary New York, Kate Morgan, English Renaissance scholar turned PI, is directed by her firm-which doubles as an undercover U.S. intelligence unit-to look into the attempted burglary from the home of a dashing London financial whiz of a leather-bound volume of 16th-century intelligence reports written in cipher. As she begins to decode the yellowed pages of the old volume, she is about to discover the truth behind Marlowe's sudden and puzzling death. Meanwhile, a mysterious Italian multimillionaire, who has had run-ins with Kate's father, a U.S. senator, is plotting his revenge. Even at its most belief-straining moments (and there are more than a few), the tale moves at a refreshing clip, and Silbert provides plenty of engaging backstory about Elizabethan history, ciphers, Iranian jails, the poison of the Australian blue-ringed octopus and much more. (Feb. 24) Forecast: Silbert's experience as a private investigator in Manhattan makes her a natural for the talk-show circuit. Backed by a five-city author tour and a 20-city radio satellite tour, plus tasteful, subtle jacket art depicting a crumbling manuscript page, the book will appeal as much to mainstream readers as to crime fans. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This page-turner, albeit somewhat cluttered, alternates between the present and the England of Elizabeth I and Christopher Marlowe. In addition to being a skilled and popular playwright, Marlowe was a spy, or intelligencer, for both Cecil and Essex, rivals for the favor of the Queen. Kate Morgan, a present-day Renaissance scholar working as a PI for a former agent still working clandestinely for the government, takes on a case involving a bound collection of coded reports of intelligencers gathered by an employee of Cecil, Essex, and others. The trail of the manuscript and its codes intersects with modern investigations involving murders, a crooked but charming art dealer, a charming but devious entrepreneur, a captured spy, Iranian prisons, Kate's father, a U.S. senator, and the current CIA director. There are a lot of strands, but the pace is quick and the action fascinating. Readers are introduced to elements of torture from both time periods as well as the newest spy devices known or imagined. Carried along by the action and the mysteries of both eras, teens will find themselves painlessly picking up details of Elizabethan life and modern political particulars. Silbert includes a useful author's note delineating the facts and fiction of her tale and what is known of Marlowe's death, as well as a cast of characters from both periods indicating which of those from Marlowe's time are fictional. This is a fun mystery with bonuses.-Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, Chantilly, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Elizabethan spycraft links parallel plots in the 16th and 21st centuries. First-timer Silbert draws heavily on her impressive academic and professional background (Ivy League, Oxford, private investigation) as she lays out simultaneous skullduggeries in two Elizabethan epochs. Both plots have to do with the scrapbook compiled by a Tudor spymaster that has popped up in Tony Blair's modern monarchy. Many corpses went into the compilation of the encoded spy saga, and its rediscovery has led to a fresh crop, including those of a kindly don and a big-hearted jewel thief. Modestly beautiful, sexy, well-educated, martially artistic, private investigator Kate Morgan gets involved when her firm is engaged to clear up its mysteries by the book's present possessor, jet set sexmeister Cidro Medina. Among those mysteries is the role of the hotheaded dramatist Christopher Marlowe, who seems to have filled with espionage the hours made empty by the closing of the playhouses in Black Plagued London. Marlowe is in the middle of maneuverings for the monarch's favor by the Earls of Essex and Burghley, dealings that extend to counterfeiting, blackmail, arms smuggling, and off-the-books deals with foreign powers, most of which turn up in their modern forms as Kate travels the globe decoding the scribblings and trying to find out who wants them badly enough to kill for them in this day. Prime suspect is shady megarich art dealer Luca de Tolomei, with whom Kate engages in professional flirtation in sundry glam locales. But as Kate homes in on the solutions, her firm warns her off the case. Unbeknownst (the story is dense with unbeknowing) to Kate, her powerful senator father and her powerful, politically wiredboss are deep in the reemergence from Iranian imprisonment of an important double agent. Headstrong Kate will not be put off. Continuing her investigation, she successfully hacks into the Elizabethan encryption and ties the Renaissance treachery to descendants of the evildoers. Clunkily written (did "OK" really turn up in Tudor parlance?) and overplotted. Agent: Joanna Pulcini/Linda Chester & Associates
From the Publisher
"Fascinating...if you liked The Da Vinci Code, you'll love The Intelligencer."
— David Morrell

"Delightfully literate...a crackling good page-turner."
Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Cool and glamorous and witty...keeps us guessing all the way."
Los Angeles Times

"Mystery buffs will devour this one...intriguing historical research...Silbert's I.Q. shines."

"Terrific...Shakespeare in Love meets James Bond."
— Lee Child

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Product Details

Atria Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.18(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

What, will you thus oppose me, luckless stars...

That I may vanish o'er the earth in air,

And leave no memory that e'er I was?

No, I will live...

— BARABAS, in Marlowe's The Jew of Malta


His rendezvous was set for nightfall and the sun was sinking quickly. The young man had no time to spare. But as he neared London Bridge, the familiar sounds along that particular stretch of the Thames were hard to resist. His pace slowed. His ears perked up. The clamor of the bear-baiting arena beckoned — a chained bear howling as canine jaws tore at its flesh, frenzied dogs shrieking with every swipe of the bear's claws, groundlings hollering out bets and cheering wildly.

Halting midstride, with one tall black boot hovering a few inches above the ground, he tested his resolve. It failed.

He veered off the riverside path and headed toward the arena. En route, a swath of bold colors drew his attention — the canopy of an unfamiliar booth. Curious, he approached. Long scarlet tresses came into view, then the gnarled face of an old woman, smiling with red-stained lips that matched her shiny wig. At first she appeared to be selling decks of playing cards, but after looking him over, she lifted a small sign advertising her forbidden trade: Grizel's Tarot. With his rakish clothing and brown hair hanging loose, it was clear he was no prim city official.

Slapping a few pennies on her table, the young man asked, "Should I put my money on the bear?"

"You would rather hear the bear's fortune than your own?"

He looked away for a moment, as if thoughtful, then turned back with a mischievous smile. "Yes."

"It would be more worth your while to attend to yourself."

"Well, that is a subject I'm fond of." He took a seat.

She laid her battered cards out slowly, several ill-fitting rings sliding along her shriveled fingers. When the tenth card had been carefully placed facedown upon the table, the woman looked up.

"May we skip to the end? I haven't much time."

"Why don't you let Grizel be the judge of that? First, I must know who you are." Near her left hand, five cards were arranged in the shape of a Celtic cross. She picked up the central card. "Your soul." Turning it over, she gazed reverently at the faded image of a man in a red cloak and cap. "The Magician. Manipulator of the natural world...loves tricks and illusions. Has a powerful imagination. A master of language, he is most nimble with words."


Raising a gray brow at his inarticulate response, she double-checked the card. With a shrug, she set it down, then selected the bottommost card of the cross. "The card of the present moment. Oh, my, the Page of Swords. You have a passionate mind, don't you, my friend? Always searching, seeking to uncover the hidden truth. Indeed, you begin such a quest today."

The young man leaned forward with interest. "Sweet lady, you're good."

Flattered, she began flipping over the cards that formed the remainder of the cross. "The Ten of Coins — in reverse. You like gambling. And risk, grave risk. Toeing the edge of a precipice."

"Keeps life interesting, and my pockets full."

"Outside influences...let me see. The Three of Swords — a dangerous triangle, a fierce conflict. Two powerful forces threaten you." Looking up, she noticed that his expression remained calm. "You'd best take heed," she declared sternly. "Danger discovered in this position is real, but it can be survived."

"Threats, conflicts...such things are everyday occurrences." He waved his hand dismissively. "If you please, my last card?"

Grumpily she turned to the second formation of cards on her table: a column five cards high. Lifting the top one, she peered at the image for a moment, hesitated, then showed it to him — a hand-painted skeleton, skull on the ground, toe bones in the air. "How could this be? Upside down, the Death card signifies an impending brush with danger, but one that will be survived. Here, in the afterlife position, it seems to mean you will live after your death..."

Puzzled, she tilted her head and studied his face.

"Does seem odd, I admit," he said. "Though some have called my looks otherworldly, perhaps — "

She scowled, then broke into a toothless grin. "Ah, of course. I forgot who you are, Magician. Now I understand. It is your magic that is to survive. Long after you take your last breath."

The young man bowed his head bashfully. Though Grizel didn't know it, she was talking to London's most popular playmaker, a writer whose deft pen had worked magic upon the theatrical stage. He marveled at her insight. Then his jaw muscle twitched. A pox on it! The cursed thought had wormed its way back into his head — the very one he had been chasing away for months. Would he make such magic again? Of course he would. When the time was right, he told himself.

Looking back up, he flashed his mischievous smile once more. "My lady, could you tell me just one thing I do not yet know?"

Grizel tried to frown, but the twinkle in his eye was contagious. Lifting the second highest card in the column on her right, she glanced at it, then slammed it down as if it burned her fingertips.

"What is it?"

Sadly she placed a hand over his. "Barring angelic intervention, you'll not live to see the next moon."

Vaguely startled, he slid his right hand into the pocket of his close-fitting silk doublet. "There's nothing like a second opinion. Particularly when the first suggests your end is nigh. Do not mistake me, you've been a delight, but there's another lady I always consult when it comes to matters of fate." He produced a silver coin. "If it's her face that greets me, I've nothing to worry about."

He tossed the coin up in the air. Glinting now and again, it flipped over a few times before falling into his left palm, landing face up. "Ah, not to worry, Grizel. The queen here says all will be well. And as her dutiful subject, I am honor-bound to take her word over yours."

With a blown kiss and a smile, the young man left the Tarot booth and hurried once more on his way to London Bridge. Tilting his coin to catch the setting sun's orange glow, he looked closely at the metallic image of Queen Elizabeth's face. He winked at her, and as always, she winked back; he'd scratched off a fragment of the silver over her left eye, revealing just a speck of the darker metal beneath. The trick coin, which had more silver plate on one side than the other, was a counterfeit English shilling he'd fashioned with an associate while on a clandestine mission in the Netherlands the previous year. The fates are fickle. Better to manufacture your luck, than hope for it.

Luck of any kind was a precious commodity to him. After all, he was not just a writer in search of his muse. Young Christopher Marlowe was a spy in the queen's secret service...a spy with no idea that the old crone was right.

Copyright © 2004 by Leslie Silbert

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