A Fine Madness

A Fine Madness


Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare’s exact contemporary and sometime collaborator, was the leading playwright of his day whose dramatic verse and themes – political power, the power of love and the route to damnation – transformed English theatre. His Doctor Faustus was the first great dramatic rendering of the Faust legend. Probably an atheist, probably a spy and possibly gay, he lived and wrote as a literary Caravaggio until killed in a knife-fight he had himself provoked, aged 29. Alan Judd’s perfectly poised and breathtakingly suspenseful novel subtly delineates the strands of that life, physical and spiritual, showing how they coalesce in a death that remains mysterious and controversial.

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'A masterful storyteller with an intricate knowledge of his subject.' The Daily Telegraph 

 'Alan Judd knows more about the secret world than any other writer living. To have him turn his expert eye on the world of Christopher Marlowe - and on Francis Walsingham, the Elizabethan George Smiley - is a special kind of literary treat.' Mick Herron

'Absolutely spellbinding. I gobbled it up in two days and could not stop' Miranda Seymour

Danger and dissent stalk the streets and taverns of Elizabethan England. The Queen's chief spymaster, Francis Walsingham, and his team of agents must maintain the highest levels of vigilance to ward off Catholic plots and the ever-present threat of invasion. One operative in particular - a young Cambridge undergraduate of humble origins, controversial beliefs and literary genius who goes by the name of Kit Marlowe - is relentless in his pursuit of intelligence for the Crown. When he is killed outside an inn in Deptford, his mysterious death becomes the subject of rumours and suspicion that are never satisfactorily resolved.
Years later, Thomas Phelippes, a former colleague of Marlowe's and a man once much valued by Walsingham, finds himself imprisoned in the Tower. When he is visited by an emissary of the new king, however, it becomes clear that his long fall from favour may be reversed if he will furnish his monarch with every detail he is able to recall about his murdered friend's life and death. But just what is it that so fascinates King James about the famously mercurial playwright-spy, and does Phelippes know enough to secure his own redemption?

Virtuosic, gripping and meticulously researched, award-winning writer Alan Judd turns is at the peak of his powers in this remarkable novel about a literary genius whose short-life and violent death composed one of the most fascinating unresolved mysteries of all time.


Additional information

Dimensions19.8 × 13 × 1.8 cm






xi, 240




1st paperback ed


823.92 (edition:23)


General – Trade / Code: K