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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Intelligencer 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In New York, London-based forensic accounting wizard Cidro Medina meets with former English Renaissance scholar turned sleuth Kate Morgan to discuss the corpse he found in his home. A thief broke into Cidro¿s home to steal a leather-bound volume of 16th-century intelligence reports written in cipher, but was trapped by cops so he chose poison instead of prison. Kate who is a deep operative for a United States Intelligence Agency investigates the sudden interest in the tome. --- In England Kate begins breaking the book¿s code and finds herself on the verge of not solving today¿s mystery, but a cold case involving the sudden death of Elizabethan most popular playwright Christopher Marlowe in 1593. She learns that Christopher lived a double life using his writings as a cover for his undercover espionage work to expose smuggling. Kate is also asked to look into an eleven million dollar art deal that triggered alerts of a possible black market sale. Billionaire art dealer Luca de Tolomei sold an antiquity to Iranian senior intelligence officer Hamad Azadi. Unbeknownst to Kate, she is the pawn of revenge by a person targeting her father, U.S. Senator Donovan Morgan. --- Though the story line is all over the place, THE INTELLIGENCER is a fine thriller that rotates chapters globally mostly in the present, but also includes stops in the late sixteenth century. Because of the constant shifts of focus, the story line takes time to develop; thus the action-packed thrill seekers might find the secondary plotting tedious while those in the audience who appreciate insightful filler will enjoy the sidebars. Leslie Silbert writes an interesting tale with a wonderful premise that is overloaded but fun to follow.--- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
Overall it was well written and interwove two interesting mysteries. However, I would have preferred an introduction, Part I-Marlowe; Part II Kate Morgan and Part III the connections between them. Flip-flopping chapters, many of them just a few pages long, was annoying. I may reread it by reading the Marlowe chapters and then the Kate Morgan chapters and suggest other readers try the book that way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written, and I learned a lot historically from it, fiction or otherwise.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this novel when it first came out but decided I wanted to revisit it--and I'm glad I did. This is smart, well-written spy fiction with a delicious twist for English geeks like me: the parallel story to the contemporary mystery is set in Elizabethan England featuring that most fascinating of engimas--Christopher Marlowe. If you read Silbert's "afterword" (and everyone should) she explains the balance between the factual and what she "twisted" to some degree and she explains the historical background for those unfamiliar with Marlowe and/or Tudor England. However, the problem for me is that there are simply too many plots and threadlines going at once--when they converge it generally makes sense--but it takes far too long for it to happen. In the meantime, it's easy to get really frustated with the many characters, red herrings and plot threads. Then when Silbert ties it together, I found myself having to go back in a couple of cases and remind myself of how I got to where I was. Also, while there are some fun twists--my favorite is Marlowe at the end--some of this is just terribly obvious. The most annoying of those is the identify of Acheron, the captured spy--that just hits you over the head on the first page it's introduced. Having that be less predictable would have been nice. Some reviewers here expressed frustration with the ending--I had no problems at all with the ending; the ending is clear in terms of the Tudor/Marlowe mystery and the contemporary one--BUT it is obvious that the ending has been set up for a sequel--there are many loose ends in relation to Kate, Rhys, Donovan, Jack and etc. Even the author's "Q/A" at the end of the book reveals Silbert working on a follow up. So my question is WHERE is the follow up? Good grief, this novel was published around 2004--2005; this novel shows a great deal of promise for a fun, smart series--but it's been so long that if/when Silbert does publish the sequel will anyone care? It all seems like a bit of a waste.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
firesidereader2 More than 1 year ago
I actually enjoyed this one. It was interesting. I read it some time ago, but would like to read more by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and raced to the end. I thought there were too many characters so at times I had trouble keeping track of who was doing what. I did not know anything about 1500 London so I learned a little.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel was full of great suspense, action, and mystery... that led up to..... nothing. do not read this book. it is horrible. the ending makes you want to chuck it out your window, just because it is so retarted. if you like good books, then dont read this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ok, so I picked this book up on a whim thinking it would be a good page turner, and it was up to a point. I liked the present day aspect of the novel more so than the past chapters. I don't know what it was but they just seemed more smooth to me. The plot is sometimes confusing because of sudden shifts, but these shifts were usually well marked so you could get back into the story. The characters are not exactly flat so that was a plus. I don't like how Silbert had Marlowe survive, it made the novel seem a bit to perfect ending. The ending of the novel was not well put either in my view. The reader is left with to many loose ends like de Tolomei and the boyfriend. What exactly happens to them. I would suggest this novel to friends, but I would hint to them the ending is not spectacular. I will still look forward to the next novel from Silbert though.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought I was an excellent book. A quick read but really good. I thought the characters were awesome. I really enjoyed the two different time periods aspect. I also liked the twist Marlowe ending.! I strongly recommend it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a good story and interesting mix between the present and the 16th century Elizabethan england. The mystery was along the lines of Dan Brown/Katherine Neville. A slightly predible ending but still excellent story with well developed characters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I normally take mystery novels for what they are, cheap thrills, but this book severely dissapointed me. I thought the ending, while predictable was unrealistic in the books context. The characters were so generic also, either they all seemed alike, or just did not fit their roles. I thought she did a decent job with the setting of early England, which is why I gave it 2 stars. But I honestly feel that I wasted a few hours of my life reading it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This talented young author has written a thriller. No skimming needed here every word is worth reading and every page a must. The tension builds to a satisfying ending. I can't wait for the next book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel had the same obnoxious overly didactic tone as the da Vinci Code;like spending time with a know-it-all teenager. Although, I have to say Silbert employs some clever, if not subtle techniques for explaining everything for the culturally impaired. My favorite so far is the discussion of the island of Capri being a sin bin. Kate is told that the suspect has a house on Capri and she says it figures, whereupon her co-worker asks why. Kate sensed that her boss wanted to exercise his expertise in classics history, so she let him explain. Then, of course, we get the requistite tidbit of trivia The Kirkus Review is right on, although you can't see it unless you click on 'See All Eight 'From the Critics''
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved Leslie Siebert's deft combination of Marlowe's Elizabethan England and the quest of modern day scholar-turned-PI Kate Morgan. The continuously interconnected storyline was quite entertaining. I was never distracted moving between eras. There were moments when I couldn't wait to get to the next Kate chapter then couldn't wait to continue Marlowe's story. This book has been on my 'Recommend to Others' list since finishing it. I am already looking forward to Silbert's next Kate Morgan novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I flew through this novel. I've never read a thriller that was so well written, creative and thought provoking. I loved reading about Elizabethan spies, ciphers and black-market arms dealing, paired with a parallel espionage tale set in the present day. You learn so much turning these pages while being entertained non-stop...I was especially fascinated by the discussion between the modern-day heroine, Kate Morgan, and her client, about which was more dangerous to pursue in the Renaissance: state secrets or God's secrets, and why. Marlowe got killed for one of those dangerous pursuits, Kate says, but which? That's one of the mysteries revealed in the last chapters, as Kate deciphers Marlowe's final intelligence report. Speaking of which, I thought the way she figured out that particular code was clever and really interesting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I heard the author on the radio talking about her real-life experiences as a PI, her ex-CIA boss, and U.S. attorney father, I decided to give this book a try. I like authenticity, and too many thrillers are painfully over the know, so implausible you roll your eyes. But this one, wow! I loved it. It's got a very authentic, informative feel, but is also inventive, fresh and exciting. Kept me up till dawn. The Marlowe chapters come to life so vividly. Really enjoyed Marlowe's banter with Tom Walsingham and the tavern whore, as well as the way he was inspired to start writing 'Hero and Leander.' And learning so much about the Elizabethan underworld--spies and spymasters, con men, codes, ciphers, etc was fascinating. Very cool how the present day chapters paralleled those set in the past--you get to see Marlowe and Kate get their espionage assignments one after the other, begin them, get in danger, etc, in alternating chapters. And I loved Kate, found her more likable and believable than other mystery/spy heroines I've come across, probably because she's modeled so closely on the author... Whose ex-CIA boss endorsed the book so glowingly that I trust the PI know-how, international intrigue, and intelligence aspects, which made the whole reading experience much more fun for me. Lastly, I was thrilled that the endings to both storylines were unpredictable, clever and witty--for me, totally satisfying. Which is so rare in this genre. And when you're done (and only then because it contains spoilers), definitely stick around for the author's note. It tells you how most events from the sixteenth-century chapters are based on historical evidence, and explains something really interesting about the structure of the novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is somewhat of a disappointment for me. Kate Morgan, the main character is so predictable, it is kind of funny in some respects. The rest of the characters are so thin (including Marlowe)that they all seem to meld together. The book is organized by flip flopping chapters from the the present (Kate's time) and 16th century England (Marlowe's time). I found myself so bored by Marlowe's story that I wanted to just skip over them. In an interview, the author admits that she had never written fiction before and was actually approached by an agent to write this book. It shows. The writing leaves little to be desired. The potential was there, and I think with a little practice the author could do very well writing in this genre since she has some inkling of how to build a suspense novel. But maybe she should have waited and practiced a little bit longer....
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was trapped into reading this and was shocked at how quickly I was sucked in. Great Characters!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I started the book expecting to like the 'thriller' elements and intrigue. And I did. Big time. But what surprised me was how attached to the characters I became... particularly Marlowe! I'm going to go buy his plays.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book blew me away. it's that rare combination of page-turner/spy thriller that actually makes you feel smarter for having read it. the way she weaves jet-set modern NYC private-investigator hijinks with brooding elizabethan england -- i couldn't put the book down. maybe it's the author's real-life PI experience...her harvard education...her good looks...whatever it is, keep your eye on leslie silbert. highly recommended.